Using Water Wisely
A History of Farm Water Use and Crop Production
"More crop per drop" is the byword on California family farms. As the tables below show, crop production in California has increased markedly, while the amount of water used on irrigated farmland has stayed relatively stable. For example, crop tonnage nearly doubled between 1967 and 2000, while agricultural applied water rose only 10 percent—and the rise in water use occurred mainly because more land came into irrigated production. In the two decades between 1980 and 2000, water use and irrigated acreage decreased, yet crop production still rose 35 percent.
Crop Acreage 3
|1960||28.5 maf||8.4 million||32.729 million tons|
|1967||31.2 maf||8.8 million||35.761 million tons|
|1972||31.7 maf||9.8 million||43.851 million tons|
|1980||35.6 maf||9.9 million||51.286 million tons|
|1985||32.9 maf||9.6 million||52.521 million tons|
|1990||31.1 maf||9.5 million||57.339 million tons|
|1995||30.4 maf||9.5 million||56.639 million tons|
|2000||34.2 maf||9.6 million||69.433 million tons|
|Comparison Years||Agricultural Applied
|1960-2000||+ 20 percent||+ 14 percent||+ 112 percent|
|1967-2000||+ 10 percent||+ 9 percent||+ 94 percent|
|1972-2000||+ 8 percent||- 2 percent||+ 58 percent|
|1980-2000||- 4 percent||- 3 percent||+ 35 percent|
|1985-2000||+ 4 percent||0||+ 32 percent|
|1990-2000||+ 10 percent||+ 1 percent||+ 21 percent|
|1995-2000||+ 12 percent||+ 1 percent||+ 23 percent|
1 Comparison years chosen based on the years documented in the California Department of Water Resources Bulletin 160 (California Water Plan) series. The most-recent comparable water-use figures are for 2000.
2 The most recent Bulletin 160 included figures both for agricultural applied water and net water; net water figures are lower because they reflect the fact that some applied water flows into other water sources where it is reused. But net water figures weren’t available for all the comparison years.
3 Crop acreage includes irrigated acres, including pastureland, and may be inflated because of double-cropping – e.g., if 10 acres are double-cropped, DWR counts that as 20 acres.
4 Crop production includes field crops, fruit and nut crops, and vegetable and melon crops listed in the California Department of Food and Agriculture annual statistical summaries.