water use
field in delta with irrigation

Rain or shine, farmers in California use about the same amount of water every year, while residential water use varies considerably with precipitation.

A research team led by UC San Diego’s John Helly processed 15 years’ worth of water-use data from the state’s Department of Water Resources, reporting in the March 2022 issue of San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science that while “the annually precipitated water supply in the Bay-Delta” varied by 30%, agricultural water use scarcely changed year to year. “The water management system maintained nearly constant agricultural water use even in periods of intense drought, with year-to-year variation of about 7%,” the authors wrote. Residential water use showed more variability, swinging by 20% from one year to the next–mainly, the authors theorize, as the result of voluntary and mandated water conservation during droughts. Though Helly says he had no expectations of...
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