University of California

Presentations 2016

Archer, Kelly

Presentation Title
The exportation of agricultural water in California and other arid regions of the US.
UC Berkeley
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Many of the largest agricultural producers in the United States are located in arid regions that have recently experienced extended droughts. In California, 80% of developed water resources are used in agriculture, but the industry only contributes 2% to the state’s gross domestic product. Much of the water used for irrigation is embedded in food products exported from the state. This study estimates the water exported from California and ten other drought-prone states by combining product-level water consumption and national trade data. This research utilized water footprinting methods to estimate total water use for agriculture production. For California, we derived nine unique product water intensities and used spatial analysis to characterize the water sources being used for agriculture. Expanded water footprinting results showed that California (68 TL/yr), Nebraska (60 TL/yr), and Texas (56 TL/yr) were the largest consumers of water for agriculture in 2012 exporting 26%, 50%, and 28% of this water through products, respectively. Agriculture in these arid regions is heavily reliant on groundwater resources, which are being rapidly exhausted in dry periods, compromising sustained production in future droughts. Agricultural drought resilience in these states could be bolstered through alternative water resources, improving water use efficiency, and sustainable groundwater management.

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