The district tracks groundwater levels and works to recharge the underground supply. But Jacobsma said challenges there include the prospect of taking land out of production and turning it into a recharge basin. That means “buying $20,000 an acre land and getting three months of utility out of it to put water in the ground,” he said.

He said that steps being taken by growers to cut costs for water delivery include moving to variable speed pumps and running equipment at times when it costs less. But that latter step, he said, is not a simple solution because delivering water is something that cannot be done easily when systems are started and stopped from time to time.

Some speakers offered practical, down to earth suggestions for just-in-case drought preparations. Others talked of online advancements that make responses to drought easier.

They included:

• Bill Green, education manager with the Center for Irrigation Technology, advised that growers test their pumps to be sure they are up and running in case – and before – a hot spell arrives.

“You may need it this year,” he said.

Green recalled his own frustration when he sought to run his pumps for frost protection and found that a nest of mice in the motor head frustrated that effort.

Green also recommended growers have their pumps tested for efficiency through a program offered through Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (Details available at

He explained how pumps can be measured for efficiency and recommended regular maintenance rather than “reactive” maintenance.

• Kaomine Vang, project manager at the Center for Irrigation Technology, talked about Wateright, an online system for water savings developed by the center with support from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources.

At the website, visitors can find tutorials on topics that include water management, furrow irrigation and sprinkler and micro irrigation. They can plug in data on their specific crops, their form of irrigation and soil type.

The Wateright system can be used by homeowners, commercial turf growers or those in agriculture. 

Crop coefficients are used with evapotranspiration data that comes through the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS).

• Kent Frame, program manager with the California Department of Water Resources, discussed CIMIS and how it has helped cut water use.

Studies have shown increased quality and yields for crops in which CIMIS is used and reductions of about 10 percent in applied water. (Details available at

About 140 CIMIS stations statewide capture data that includes evapotranspiration rates and other information that can be delivered through means that include mobile devices.

Frame conceded there are “spatial data gaps” within the field of stations, and efforts are being made to close those gaps with “remotely sensed data.”