What does it take to grow the food that makes it to your table?

What does it take to grow the food that makes it to your table? It takes time, a farmer’s hard work, and yes, water…

…But not as much water as you’d think. In fact, in California, over the past half century, saladpic2agricultural water use has remained about the same, while providing about 43 percent more food than we used to. That means that while the soup, salad, and sandwich you eat at lunch used water, they actually used much less than they would have fifty years ago. It’s the kind of smart water use that we can all get behind. Let’s take a look at the efficiency measures that farmers are using to continue supplying half of the nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts while balancing responsible water use.


California’s farmers lead on water efficiency

With increased use of soil sensors that let farmers know exactly how wet the growing conditions already are, California’s farmers are avoiding over-watering their crops. No farmer would intentionally waste water: it’s bad for the crops to be over-watered, which means it’s also bad for the bottom line.

soupminestronepurchasedimageFarmers work hard to ensure responsible water use, right down to the way crops are planted. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology allows farmers to create maps of their fields, allowing more efficient planting and harvesting of crops. This means that a farmer knows down to the meter what’s going on in his or her field and how to adjust accordingly, resulting in fewer wasted drops.
With California’s farmers working hard to grow fresh, healthy food in an efficient way, you can be confident that the food you eat daily is grown responsibly. Want to know more about how much water it takes to grow your food? Visit us at farmwater.org/lunch to see how much water an average lunch uses.

Let’s Learn from Australia Before It’s Too Late


The California State Water Resources Control board, elected officials and others frequently tout Australia as a model for managing limited water resources. Specifically, Australia’s long history of dealing with drought is seen as a way to help California avoid making the same mistakes – Australia has already been where California is heading.

Hillston New South Wales
Hillston, NSW, where numerous businesses have closed because of declining commerce due to the purchase of farm water by environmental water rights holders.

On August 16, in a letter to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the agency charged with implementation of Australia’s Basin Plan, five prominent Australian farm organizations emphatically argued for a multi-pronged approach to treating environmental issues. The letter cited the economic devastation that results from simply dedicating more and more water exclusively to environmental purposes and expecting that to solve the problem. After listing multiple tactics that can and should be employed, the letter went on to say:

“We submit that the focus on ‘adding more water’ as the singular management tool, under the Basin Plan, must cease. Instead, a dedicated effort must focus on a range of measures that provide an equal balance to food and fibre production, the social and economic outcomes for communities and the environment.”

The California Farm Water Coalition has long argued that continuing to flush more water out to sea, even though there is no evidence this approach has provided measurable environmental benefits, is the very definition of insanity. This year alone, California has flushed over 1 million acre-feet of water out to sea, enough to provide 6 million domestic users with water for a year or grow almost 17 billion salads.

The Lachlan River near flood stage in Hillston, NSW. Muddy water is the result of bottom-feeding invasive carp stirring up the river bottom.

Farmers, fishermen, environmentalists, as well as urban water users should be furious at this reliance on outdated, failed practices that help no one and hurt millions.

Let’s learn from Australia before it’s too late and shift our focus to multi-pronged, common sense and science-based solutions as identified in this Public Policy Institute of California report.