Conclusions of a major water study recently released by the Pacific Institute have been questioned by a group of researchers from California State University and the University of California.

The challenge comes as a published report titled, “Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California – A Commentary.” Among the authors is Dr. David Zoldoske, director of Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology and the executive director of Water Resources and Policy Initiatives for the California State University.

According to Zoldoske, he and other irrigation specialists were troubled by some of the methodology used to draw conclusions in the Pacific Institute report, which is titled “More with Less: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California – A Focus on the Delta.” Among that report’s conclusions: California farmers could save up to 3.4 million acre-feet of water each year by utilizing what the authors refer to as “Smart Irrigation Scheduling.”

In fact, Zoldoske said, California’s agricultural industry has been developing and implementing more efficient watering systems and management for decades, and that effort continues today.

“It is our opinion that certain points in the Pacific Institute paper draw incorrect conclusions, or infer incorrect conclusions based on errors in the underlying assumptions,” stated Zoldoske and the other writers in their commentary.

A concern for the irrigation industry is that the Pacific Institute paper has been circulated in Sacramento and could be used by some as a basis for new legislation affecting state water policy.

“We want to make sure that any legislation is based upon good science and not on questionable assumptions or outdated information,” Zoldoske said.

“I would also note, however, our agreement with some of the conclusions found in the report. Those would include promoting wider acceptance of proven efficient irrigation technologies, improved data on actual water use, and of course, more funding for agricultural outreach.”

Authors of the commentary, along with Zoldoske, include Charles M. Burt, professor of irrigation at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; Peter Canessa, program manager for the Pumping Energy Efficiency Program at Fresno State; and Lawrence J. Schwankl, irrigation specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension.

The full commentary is posted on the California Water Institute Web site.

(Copy by Steve Olson of the California Agricultural Technology Institute at Fresno State.)

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