An adequate and dependable water supply tops the Christmas wish list for farmers and water district members of the California Farm Water Coalition, the state’s largest farm water organization.

A recent mailed survey asked Coalition members, representing nearly 5 million irrigated acres in California, to identify water issues according to: important, somewhat important, least important, or not important.

“Rather than forcing our members to rank the issues according to one, two or three, our survey allowed them to place multiple issues as most important if they could not decide between one or more issues,” explained Mike Wade, executive director.

An “adequate and dependable water supply” received a “most important” or “somewhat important” designation from 87 percent of the Coalition’s water district members and 85 percent from its farmer members.

Storage was the second leading issue for members with 78 percent of responding water districts saying it was “most important” or “somewhat important” while farmer members selected it 72 percent of the time. Protection and operation of the Delta was in the third spot for water districts and farmers opted for water quality issues as number three.

“It is not surprising that an adequate and dependable supply of water is the number one issue for those involved in farming,” Wade said. “Without water there is no farming and without farming there are no food and fiber products that California residents have come to rely upon.

“California’s population continues to grow. If we expect to meet the additional water needs of tomorrow’s residents we need to make a serious effort today to expand our water supply. That means additional storage and sensible conservation and recycling programs.”

Wade explained that meeting all of the State’s future water needs can’t be accomplished with a single solution. It will take a variety of efforts that reflect the needs and abilities of each region. As an example, new storage on the Upper San Joaquin River would feature water supply, ecosystem and flood protection benefits while urban water conservation in Southern California is a cost-effective way to stretch existing supplies.

“The idea that one solution is the answer ignores the dynamics of California water,” Wade insisted. “Solutions must have benefits that cross philosophical and regional boundaries.”

Farmers and water district members of the Coalition also agreed that highway signs that tout the importance of farm water are the most important activity by the organization to educate the public. Water districts also placed farm water tours as equally important.

“Motorists traveling the state’s highways view banners that proclaim ‘Food Grows Where Water Flows’ and they remember that message,” Wade said. “Almost on a weekly basis I encounter someone who comments on the signs when the Coalition is mentioned.”

The roadside banners are spread throughout the state with signs in the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley, Imperial Valley and Ventura County.

“We are always looking for more locations to partner with our members in establishing more signs,” Wade said.

Farmers selected radio advertising campaigns and farm water tours as the number two and three most important activities of the Coalition. Water districts placed opinion articles submitted to the media and radio advertising as two and three.

Complete results of the survey are available on the Coalition website at www.farmwater.org.