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Delta water official presses agriculture to use water wisely

January 10, 2011 |  7:58 pm


Few may know it, but the California state constitution enshrines the concept of "reasonable use" of water. In other words, having the right to water does not include the right to waste it.

Usually, that clause is used when one party thinks another is squandering water. But now the water master for the Sacrament-San Joaquin Delta is pushing for a broader interpretation of the legal precedent, urging agriculture as a whole to enact far more water-saving measures.

“Agriculture is using so much water," Delta  watermaster Craig Wilson told Times staff writer Bettina Boxall. "You don’t need a lot, at least on a percentage basis, of better efficiency to start adding up to serious water” savings, he said.

Wilson is to submit a report to the State Water Resources Control Board next week. Among his recommendations are a statewide water summit and enhanced enforcement against those who squander water, which is one of California's most-contested commodities, disputed between agribusiness against cities.

“I think it’s long past time that the state focus on what is really a reasonable and beneficial use of our water,” said Pacific Institute President Peter Gleik, who has argued that California agriculture could cut its water use by 10%-15% if it adopted more sophisticated irrigation techniques. “There’s been no effort to identify and challenge unreasonable uses of water.”

But Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, disputed the notion that small fixes can result in big water savings, and said some proposals to save water are prohibitively expensive.

Read more on Delta watermaster Craig Wilson's water report.


Sacramento-San Joaquin's ecological decline is breathing new life into bypass proposals

Californians should use less delta water, report says

-- Geoff Mohan

Photo: Jorge Ponce, an irrigator, adjusts the flow of water into a carrot field in California's Imperial Valley. A state report says small changes in agricultural efficiency could save the state a lot of water. Credit: Don Barletti/Los Angeles Times