CA Drought

Water conservation on ag fields varies in Salinas Valley

Some keep a close eye on water usage, while other let it overflow

Water conservation in ag fields varies in Salinas Valley

SALINAS, Calif. - Every last drop of water is precious in California and here on the Central Coast, most of it goes to our multi-billion dollar agriculture industry.  But on Monday, we checked out one area some of you said may not be using water wisely.  During this devastating drought, we're taking a close look at how communities are trying to conserve, including in our fields.  We found out why some are wondering if growers need to conserve more water.

Some growers are conserving with drip irrigation pipes, used to move them around agriculture fields to water crops.  But sometimes water will overflow into ditches depending on who's managing the land and how closely they're watching.

"This is a farming industry and a farming community and we need all the water we can get and we need to put it to the best possible use that we can," said longtime Salinas resident Anson Spence.

Spence is talking about water seen in ditches along some Salinas Valley roads.

"At this time of the crisis of the drought, it's a shame to see one drop of it wasted," Spence said.

So we decided to find out if it's actually being wasted.

"The main effort has really been on the conservation and more efficient, irrigation methods. people have figured out how to use drip irrigation on many different crops where it hasn't been used before," said Monterey County Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Bob Roach.

An irrigation specialist we talked to and who wants to remain anonymous, said some growers conserve, while some water their crops for too long.  But just because runoff from ag fields may pool up in ditches, doesn't mean its going to waste.  The ag commission said a lot of it seeps back down into the ground.

Replenishing groundwater is a key factor in making sure there's enough water to go around.  The ag commission said some ditch water gets recycled, but it can't go back on crops.

"In some cases there are ponds where it's collected.  But for food and safety reasons, they are limited in how they can used that water," Roach said.

As for rules or penalties for using too much water, the ag commission said there aren't any. 

The irrigation specialist also said some growers will water for an hour or two at a time during planting, to get everything done faster.  But in the end sometimes it's hard to prevent the soil from becoming over saturated.

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