California irrigation districts that supply water to farms are required by state law to annually report to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) the amount of water actually delivered to farmers’ fields. However, as of 2017, only 12 percent of the state’s largest irrigation districts had turned in all of the required reports, and 28 percent never turned in any report. What’s more, DWR has not monitored or enforced compliance with this reporting requirement. There is effectively no accurate or complete documentation of drought response from the agricultural sector during California’s driest consecutive years in the historical record, stretching from 2012 to 2016.
NRDC’s policy recommendations to improve data quality and access and increase accountability among water suppliers would make farm-gate delivery report data more accessible, help identify opportunities for increased efficiency, and create an accurate baseline for future efficiency improvements. Robust and accurate data on how much water is being delivered to farms across the state are necessary to increase efficiency and improve management of the state’s limited and valuable water resources.