Water Online

July 2016

Water Innovations gives Water and Wastewater Engineers and end-users a venue to find project solutions and source valuable product information. We aim to educate the engineering and operations community on important issues and trends.

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By Jim Lauria A sk somebody to name five things California is great at, and chances are two of them are going to be "growing things" and "technology." The Golden State is the salad bowl of America and much of the world, and home to legendary Silicon Valley. So it would be natural for California to become the hotbed of agricultural water technology — the Silicon Valley of Ag Water, if you will. Just look at the numbers. In 2014, in the midst of an epic drought, California's agricultural exports totaled $21.59 billion. The state is firmly ensconced as one of the top 10 global agricultural economies in the world, ahead of Canada, Mexico, Germany, and Spain. Go to India, and you'll be served California almonds. Milk from California cows is served in China (and premium alfalfa from California farms feeds China's own dairy herd). Mexico's tacos are topped with California cheese. Golden State fruit is prized in markets from Geneva to Japan. California's farm and agricultural-related industries employ 7.3 percent of the state's private-sector labor and generate 5.6 percent of the state's labor income. For every 100 jobs in agriculture and the food industry, 94 additional jobs are created throughout the state, according to the University of California, Davis. So it's especially devastating to see what the lack of water can mean for California. Last year, 564,000 acres were fallowed due to drought. More than 18,000 jobs were lost, most in the hardscrabble communities of the Central Valley. Some of those communities, like East Porterville, lost their household water to falling groundwater levels; others, like the Lake Don Pedro Community Services District, scrambled for emergency funding for wells to stave off a disaster when lake levels receded beyond the reach of their intake pipes. Agriculture's economic losses in 2015 were estimated at $2.7 billion, after $2.2 billion in losses the year before. Farmers desperate to save their crops sucked so much groundwater that NASA satellites could see the ground subsiding from space — as much as two inches per month in some locations. As groundwater recedes along the coast, saltwater intrusion occurs. As water users drill for deeper sources of groundwater, they may encounter water that is more saline or tainted with sulfur or arsenic. That may force many communities to tap into desalination and other treatment technologies just to maintain access to traditional sources of water. And even after an El Niño winter that helped replenish reservoirs that had fallen to record lows, the threat of another drought looms. Always Looming In fact, the prospect of another drought always looms in California. California is dry country in the best of years, and you don't have to have a particularly long memory to think 36 wateronline.com n Water Innovations California Dreaming: The Need For Homegrown Agricultural Water Technology In drought-plagued California, the supply of water falls well short of demand — with food production hanging in the balance. The implications are felt globally, but relief can be found locally. As California creeps out from an epic drought — and with others always on the horizon — unmetered irrigation practices will come under greater scrutiny.

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