At a recent water forum in Clovis, Calif., Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture says drip irrigation and subsurface irrigation are perfect examples of saving water, saving inputs and optimizing yields.
At a recent water forum in Clovis, Calif., Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture says drip irrigation and subsurface irrigation are perfect examples of saving water, saving inputs and optimizing yields.

As drought continues to plague California’s vital agricultural sector, policymakers, water management experts, environmental leaders and growers convened in the state’s Central Valley to examine water issues, technologies and solutions specific to the region during the Los Angeles Times’ recent The California Conversation: Water In The West forum in Clovis, Calif.

Presented by drip irrigation manufacturer Netafim, the Los Angeles Times’ Water In The West forum led off with a question and answer session between Timessenior correspondent Peter King and Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. During the discussion, Secretary Ross addressed the state of California agriculture and shared her view of what lies ahead for the region’s growers.

“Looking ahead I see the continued resiliency, the continued adoption of appropriate technology, and the use of that technology to create more productivity with less inputs. Drip irrigation and subsurface irrigation are perfect examples of saving water, saving inputs and optimizing yields. It is what we have to do as we have less arable land and less available water,” said Secretary Ross. “Even in a changing climate, I still look at California agriculture and think the best days for California agriculture are yet to be here.”

As the presenting sponsor, Netafim USA CEO John Vikupitz added, “California’s farmers have a strong record of developing and implementing water efficiency practices to optimize water use and adapt to drought. The path to a more sustainable water future will undoubtedly require a renewed emphasis on providing growers with the right tools, technology, and knowledge to help them maximize water productivity per acre.”

Following the conversation with Secretary Ross, veteran Times columnist Patt Morrison engaged a distinguished panel of experts in a discussion on water rights, agriculture, policies and politics in the era of drought.

The event panel featured stakeholders, water management experts, environmental leaders and growers from across the region, including Mark Cowin, Director of CA Department of Water Resources; Dan Dooley, Principal, New Current Water and Land; Randy Fiorini, local grower and Chair of Delta Stewardship Council; Nikiko Masumoto, local grower, Masumoto Family Farm; Becky Quintana, Tulare County resident and environmental activist; and Sarah Woolf, President of Water Wise and board member of Westlands Water District.

Cowin, California’s top water official, noted that more can be done to improve the efficiency of California’s water systems, saying that the recent dry period is “a preview of what we should expect more of in the next century,” and that “if global climate change affects California the way we expect it to, we can expect more of these extended dry periods.”

Woolf, also a local grower, agreed that increasing water efficiency and improving storage and groundwater supplies is an essential step for the future of California agriculture, adding that “managing the status quo is not going to get us where we need to go as a state.”

Fiorini was more blunt in his assessment: “Anyone not using drip or micro irrigation today is making a big mistake.”

Held at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District, the forum was the second in Los Angeles Times’ The California Conversationevent series that aims to spotlight statewide issues. Netafim was also presenting sponsor of the series’ inaugural event in June 2015, which featured a public conversation about water issues with Governor Jerry Brown at the University of Southern California.

“It is imperative that the Los Angeles Times continues to engage thought leaders on a range of topics essential to life in the Golden State, ranging from water and politics to technology and entertainment,” said Chris Argentieri, The Times’ General Manager. “As we’ve focused The California Conversation events on the water crisis in the West, Netafim has been a great sponsor in helping us present candid, solutions-oriented discussions with industry representatives, elected officials, stakeholders and advocacy groups that have a direct impact on the future of the state.”

A recap video of the forum is available by visiting The California Conversation: Water In The West.