Changes could help California agriculture

Duncan – Re: California crisis chance to think local food (Citizen, June 5) Your article might have been improved by the inclusion of one or two things. To start, agriculture consumes 80 per cent of all water used in the state, while the amount used for residential use is less than 10 per cent, even in the southern part of the state.

Secondly, the crop that uses the largest amount of water is alfalfa, almost all of which is used to feed cattle being raised for meat and dairy products. The second thirstiest crop is almonds and pistachios, followed

by rice, orchards, corn and grapes. Alfalfa is watered by overhead sprinklers, while almond and pistachio orchards, rice and orchards are for the most part flooded. A change to drip irrigation in orchards would save an enormous amount of water.

Another way that water is wasted by agriculture in California is the use of uncovered water canals. In several regions of India solar arrays have been erected over similar canals, providing a significant amount of electricity and at the same time reducing water lost through evaporation.

None of this is to deny that much more food could be grown here in the Cowichan Valley than is done at present.

Researching the facts does reveal, however, that much of the produce we currently import from California uses a relatively small amount of water: row crops like lettuce, broccoli, and so on are not among the top 10 consumers of water used for agriculture, and if farmers were encouraged to recognize that water is not an infinite resource and adopt better irrigation techniques, California could continue to produce enormous amounts of food for many, many years.

Mark Hazell