A Vision for More Sustainable Farmlands

From above, California’s San Joaquin Valley spills out of the Sierra Nevada in a checkerboard of earth-toned farmland. It’s some of the most valuable land in the world; every year, the agribusiness industry here produces billions of dollars’ worth of milk, vegetables and nuts. But the scale, and the industrial intensity, of agriculture require an enormous amount of groundwater to be pulled out of aquifers deep belowground — more than the industry can afford to pump, according to hydrologic modeling.

According to projections from the Public Policy Institute of California, between 535,000 and 750,000 acres — around 15% of the valley’s irrigated farmland — will need to be taken out of irrigated production in order to meet the requirements of the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.