Coalition Identifies Stewardship Strategies for Agricultural Water Use:
Broad spectrum of representatives call for changes to advance sound water management
June 2011: A new multi‐stakeholder coalition of leaders, the California Roundtable on Water and
Food Supply, released a report and set of recommendations calling on decision‐makers to employ agricultural
water stewardship as a guiding framework to inform agricultural water management in California.
Pacific Institute senior research associate Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith is a member of the Roundtable, which, as a group have identified “water stewardship” as a comprehensive concept to guide policy making
and practice. Agricultural water stewardship refers to the agricultural use of water in a manner that optimizes
on‐farm and regional water use while recognizing the benefits of water for food production, the environment,
and human health. Water stewardship practices include water efficiency measures, groundwater recharge and
conjunctive management, soil moisture retention and soil health improvements, on‐farm storm water and
rainwater storage, and much more. Adoption of many of these practices has been slowed by several factors.
The Roundtable’s recommendations identify straightforward administrative and programmatic changes
targeted to a range of decision‐makers, including state government, watershed planners, water suppliers, and
agricultural advocates. The recommendations seek actions to build a stronger knowledge base to support
decision‐making, strengthen the technical support system for farmers, and build more effective policy that
produces tangible results.
“Practices that reduce applied water to agricultural lands represent a powerful and broadly supported
solution set," said Christian‐Smith. "For example, water conservation can help to protect the quality of groundwater and surface
water, save farmers money, augment stream flows, reduce tailwater runoff, conserve energy, and store water
for subsequent drought periods. Yet these outcomes are not universal, and it is critical to examine the local
context to determine the most appropriate water stewardship practices.”
"Because it's so important for California to maintain local food production, we must continue to examine all
possibilities to assure adequate, affordable water supplies for farms and ranches. This diverse group (CRWFS)
came together in order to better understand each other and the people we represent, so that we could then
focus on real solutions to our water challenges,” says Danny Merkley, Director of Water Resources for the
California Farm Bureau Federation and Roundtable member. “We quickly recognized that realistic water
solutions for people and the environment require holistic answers to managing our water. We must rule out
nothing and consider everything, from new surface storage and flood protection to address a changing
environment and growing population, to groundwater recharge, recycling, and moving water more efficiently
and effectively without harming any one segment of society or the environment."
The California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply is a consensus‐based forum of leaders from agriculture,
water supply management, government, fish and wildlife, natural resources and stewardship, environmental
justice, rural economic development, and academia.
Read "Recommendations to Optimize
Outcomes for Specialty Crop Growers
and the Public in California."
more on the Roundtable.