As the possibility of drought captivates the state, now is the perfect time to address the issue of flood/flush irrigation in California.
A study in from 2009 finds that 4.5 to 6 million acre-feet of water could be conserved by eliminating the practice of flood irrigation, where fields and orchards are flooded with inches of standing water. This is because flood irrigation is still widely practiced in California's central valley, where the dry heat makes the practice especially unsuitable and outdated.
According to the same study, 4.5 to 6 million acre-feet of water roughly translates to 15 times the amount of water that Hetch Hetchy can hold at one time. Entreaties to “save our water” are hollow without addressing this potential huge boon.
Voters will agree that we could use an extra 15 Hetch Hetchys this year.
Now is the time to create incentives for farmers to switch to sustainable irrigation methods, or to create penalties for not switching in a certain timeframe. Or, perhaps now is the year for an outright ban on flood irrigation in the light of the impending crisis for our state. To do nothing is to stand idly by while millions of acre-feet evaporate in the valley sun.