Some farmers who grew or harvested in the San Joaquin Valley in California, where drought has been severe for the past decade, say they have seen a significant drop in water use.
“I’ve noticed that farmers are going to stop using water more,” said John Burt, who manages a water conservation project in a remote farm in the Mojave Desert.
“It’s not just a one-time thing, it’s a trend.”
Burt said he and other farmers in the area have noticed an increase in the amount of water used to irrigate their fields and also noticed an uptick in the number of lawns.
“People are starting to really care about water,” he said.
“They’re looking for a way to conserve water.”
Water conservation programs and water conservation education are popular among many farmers in San Joas Valley.
There are more than 400 programs across the region, according to a recent study by the San Jose Mercury News.
Many of the programs have water conservation incentives that encourage farmers to buy water from a private company and pay a fee to get it delivered to their property.
“We want people to be more aware of their water use and how they can conserve,” said David Stadler, a senior conservation program manager for the California Cooperative Extension program.
“You can actually get people thinking about water conservation, not just as a water issue, but more in the context of other issues they have.”
Some farmers say they’ve found that water conservation is often overlooked or misunderstood by the public, and that they often do not realize how much water they are using.
“Water is an expensive commodity, and it’s one of those things that we don’t think of until it’s gone,” said Mike Fong, who grows strawberries in the Fresno area.
“But if you’re going to do something about it, you should do it.”
The number of water conservation programs varies, but they have become increasingly popular in recent years, with the California Water Conservation Association and the California Farm Water Conservation Commission working together to encourage people to consider water conservation as part of their irrigation projects.
“Our water conservation program is a big part of our irrigation planning,” said Fong.
“If we had a different way of planning and investing, we would have a different water problem.”
In addition to water conservation and water pricing, there are other incentives available to encourage farmers in drought-stricken regions to conserve.
Some programs offer incentives to pay for water conservation in the form of coupons.
Others have incentives to sell water from their water systems or sell their land to other farmers.
The Sacramento Bee has detailed a number of such programs.
In some cases, farmers are encouraged to build water storage tanks, but many are not.
Some farmers also receive money to buy irrigation equipment.
Other programs are designed to encourage conservation through incentives such as planting trees, cutting down brush and watering gardens.
The goal is to reduce water use while maximizing water use efficiency.
Some agricultural programs are also designed to incentivize farmers to keep their crops in good health.
“The goal is not to make people lazy,” said Stadlers.
“A farmer who has a good irrigation system is more likely to do what’s best for the land.
The key is to have good systems in place, and not just the right equipment and the right tools.”
The water conservation industry is growing, but the industry has had a long way to go to make the water conservation system a success, said Mike Creswell, a water expert and owner of Water Conservation Associates, a firm that works with farmers.
He pointed to the example of drought-affected farmers in northern California who are using a lot of water to water their lawns, but not enough to irrigates the ground.
The drought has caused a sharp drop in lawn watering, he said, and “some of these farmers are trying to conserve their lawn and water.
They’re doing what’s right, but it’s not a sustainable practice.”
In fact, many of the farmers in Northern California, such as Mike Fung, have been planting trees and landscaping their fields for the last two years, he added.
“When I see farmers that are using more water, that’s a good sign.
I see a lot more of those practices in the valley, and they’re starting to become more widespread.”
But many farmers are skeptical that farmers will see an improvement in their water management efforts in the next few years.
“Even if we make sure the irrigation system works, the drought is still going to hit farmers,” said Cresweld.
“And there’s going to be a lot harder days ahead.”