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Agricultural Responses to Changing Water Supplies in Imperial Valley, California

Authors: Gabriela Morales*, San Diego State University, Trent Biggs, San Diego State University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Agricultural Geography, Land Use and Land Cover Change
Keywords: Water Resources, Land Use, Agriculture
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Quantification Settlement Agreement of 2003 (QSA) was enacted to reduce California’s dependence on imported water from the Colorado River and fit within its 4.4 million acre-feet allotment. Parties from federal, state, and local levels agreed to implement a series of agriculture-to-urban water transfers from the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) to San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), ultimately decreasing the amount of water received by the Imperial Valley (IV). To conserve the massive volumes of water for transfer to SDCWA, the QSA incentivized water-conserving fallowing and on-farm efficiency programs in the IID. The fallowing program offered farmers compensation per acre to intermittently fallow portions of their land in 2-3 year intervals. Similarly, the on-farm efficiency program offered payment to farmers for installing more efficient, “water-saving” technologies, such as drip irrigation. Though the fallowing program came to an end in 2017 and the on-farm efficiency program continues today, the QSA and its programs have never been evaluated in terms of their impact on valley-wide agricultural productivity. Supported by semi-structured interviews with key informants, we explored the agricultural response to a decreased water supply in Imperial Valley, California. Preliminary results show that despite the Valley’s decrease in water supply from reduced canal inflow, annual water productivity in the IV increased since the QSA took effect. Total consumptive water use also showed a decreasing trend. Ultimately, the inverse relationship between water productivity and water use could imply an increase in water use efficiency within the IV’s agricultural systems.

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