Water & Drought

Why do I need to conserve while farms use the most water?

Q: What percentage of water use is for residential use? What percentage is used for agriculture, and what percentage is used for industrial purposes? It seems that the heaviest users should be called to task for the greatest conservation. – Jean Thompson, Antelope, CA

A: Farms use about 75 percent of the water consumed by residences and businesses in California. Most of the rest is used by homes, with industries consuming a relatively small portion.

Farmers are getting better at conserving water. They used about 25 percent less water on their farms in 2005 than they did in 1980, even while increasing average yields, according to The Public Policy Institute of California. Farmers will get much less water this year from the state and federal delivery systems than they would in a normal rain year.

Urban water users are consuming less water per person since a decade ago, but due to population growth California’s total residential water use has remained fairly steady.

In the Sacramento region, most residents depend to some extent on the water stored in Folsom Reservoir. That source is low because of the drought and may not be completely replenished by snowmelt. We’ve been asked to conserve to stretch that supply so that the entire region has water to last through summer and fall.

Submit your question for The Sacramento Bee’s water team.