California’s governor Gavin Newsom has acknowledged the lack of metering provides no sense of how much water is used by California agriculture. Growers in the Watsonville area in Santa Cruz County, however, are metered, and this has resulted in significant water conservation.
This time of year, the fields around Watsonville are producing berries, lettuce, broccoli and celery; crops valued at close to $1 billion. But there’s something else in these fields; about one thousand meters that measure how much groundwater is being tapped to irrigate the crops. As agriculture boomed, so did concerns about the aquifer and an incursion of saltwater.
The Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency was an early user of meters, dating back 30 years ago. Its success may become a model for other parts of the state in need of conserving every gallon of water possible.
The meters, along with other conservation measures, have reduced water use dramatically — by nearly 3.1 billion gallons over the past four years, compared to a decade ago. That’s the equivalent of filling 77 and half million bathtubs. Besides the meters, the water agency staff works with growers to use water efficiently.
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