In 2011, the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply (CRWFS), a project of Ag Innovations, released a set of proposed strategic actions to increase water security for California agriculture while maintaining or improving other beneficial uses. CRWFS members identified agricultural water stewardship as a key area of importance for sound long-term water management. Agricultural Water Stewardship: Recommendations to Optimize Outcomes for Specialty Crop Growers and the Public in California presents a unified set of principles for agricultural water stewardship. The report also identifies a set of targeted recommendations for state agencies, water suppliers, local water management groups, and the agricultural and research communities designed to facilitate long-term solutions.
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The challenges associated with water supply, distribution, and use are the subject of substantial conflict and widely divergent perspectives. Yet there is broad agreement that demands on water supply in many regions of California increasingly exceed availability, particularly given the constraints of current water infrastructure and use patterns.
A common call has been for the agricultural sector to improve water management and reduce overall consumption of water through "agricultural water conservation." Recognizing that the term "conservation" has varying definitions and can result in unintended consequences, CRWFS recommends "agricultural water stewardship" as a more useful concept to guide thinking and decision-making for agricultural water use in California.
Agricultural water stewardship can be defined as the use of water in a manner that optimizes agricultural water use while addressing the co-benefits of water for food production, the environment, and human health.
Agricultural Water Stewardship: Recommendations to Optimize Outcomes for Specialty Crop Growers and the Public in California expands on the concept of agricultural water stewardship and identifies three key solution sets:
- Create a stronger knowledge base
- Improve support mechanisms for growers
- Move toward outcome-based policy and regulatory frameworks that foster agricultural water stewardship