Agriculture and water management experts convened in the heart of California’s Central Valley to participate in a series of panel discussions aimed at providing greater insight into the water issues, policies, legislation, programs, initiatives and trends that ultimately impact California’s agricultural industry.

“Small changes in agricultural water use efficiency can produce significant amounts of water.”

Presented by Rain Bird, the leading manufacturer and provider of irrigation products and services in partnership with the Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT) at California State University, Fresno, The Intelligent Use of Water Summit: California Agriculture at a Crossroads provided a forum to discuss their experiences and propose recommendations that address the critical relationship between California’s agriculture industry and the state’s limited water supply.

“This is a complex problem with no clear answer that is going to require some decisive action,” said Rain Bird corporate marketing director Dave Johnson. “It is imperative that we keep the conversation going through forums like this that bring greater awareness to the importance of creating a sustainable water supply and a long-term solution. No other resource is going to have a bigger impact on the future of agriculture and human health than water.”

Rain Bird’s 12th Intelligent Use of Water Summit featured a cross section of environmental and water experts: Tim Quinn, Executive Director, Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA); Valerie Connor, Science Program Manager, State and Federal Contractors Water Agency (SFCWA); Jason Peltier, Chief Deputy General Manager, Westlands Water District; Joe Del Bosque, President and CEO, Empresas Del Bosque; Richard Matoian, Executive Director, Western Pistachio Association; Mario Santoyo, Assistant General Manager, Friant Water Authority (FWA) and Executive Director of the California Latino Water Coalition; Mike Wade, Executive Director, California Farm Water Coalition; Dave Orth, General Manager, Kings River Conservation District (KRCD); Manucher Alemi, Chief, Office of Water Use & Efficiency, CA Dept. Water Resources; Juliet Christian-Smith, Senior Research Associate, Pacific Institute; Andrew Gregson, CEO of Australia’s New South Wales Irrigators’ Council; Rebecca Nelson, lead researcher of the Comparative Groundwater Law and Policy Program at Stanford University.

Moderated by Dr. David Zoldoske, director of the Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT), California State University, Fresno, the panels addressed topics including land and water rights issues surrounding the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, recent policy initiatives, and the impact of the Water Conservation Act of 2009 (SBX7-7, SBX7-6) on California’s farming industry.

“There is a misunderstanding and misrepresentation on how agricultural water is used. Half of the water available for agriculture is reserved for designated environmental purposes in California,” said Mike Wade.

As panelists, each had the opportunity to showcase their water conservation case study and share their successful strategies and initiatives on outdoor water conservation with those in attendance as well as those watching and participating via a web cast on Rain Bird’s website and Facebook page.
In addition to land and water rights, panelists were also asked about the future of California farming as it relates to water availability.

Unreliable water system

“Everyone in the Delta recognizes that something needs to change and that they cannot use a system that is unreliable,” added Jason Peltier.
“If we don’t take agricultural land out of production then we’ll have to find a way to make it more efficient,” said Juliet Christian-Smith.

Tim Quinn added, “We should encourage greater efficiency through the market and  incentive based programs, not command and control regulation.”

“Science is going to play a critical role in ecosystem restoration, but the best science does not equal the best that we can do,” said Valerie Connor.

The summit concluded with two lunchtime presentations in which Andrew Gregson, CEO of Australia’s New South Wales Irrigators’ Council and Rebecca Nelson, lead researcher of the Comparative Groundwater Law and Policy Program at Stanford University, presented comparative case studies on Australian water policy and compare and contrast those with California's current water situation.

“If we put a dollar amount on every liter of water then it will be necessary be used to its most efficient level,” said Andrew Gregson. “We don’t want a water act that allows for a balanced outcome, but one that requires a balance outcome instead.”

Established in 2004 as a forum to further define the relationship between water conservation and outdoor water use, The Intelligent Use of Water Summit series presents a view of the current and future state of water resources through the eyes of water conservation and environmental experts. Previous summit locations have included: Pasadena, Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; Tempe, Ariz.; Madrid, Spain; Aix-en-Provence, France; Melbourne, Australia; and Washington DC in 2010.

A full rebroadcast of The Intelligent Use of Water Summit: California Agriculture at a Crossroads is available online at www.RainBird.com/Summit.