California Drought

    Published: December 18, 2015

    How to Drought-Proof California’s Farms

    California’s agriculture continues to struggle under the effects of four years of extreme drought, causing many to worry how long the state can continue to grow half of the U.S.’s fresh produce. In many areas, desperate farmers are drilling wells so deep they threaten to collapse the aquifers they rely on. Then there’s Warren Brush’s farm.

    In the drought-ravaged hills outside of Santa Barbara, Brush runs a 50-acre family farm. His crop? Avocado trees, which demand significant amounts of water. The trees thrive on just over 10 inches of rain a year, however, and Brush’s well has a depth of 100 feet. In comparison, the average agricultural well in California is 800-feet deep.

    Brush’s farm survives because he understands how to farm in dry conditions. His agroecology techniques are so successful that the U.S. Agency for International Development contracts the Californian farmer to teach his techniques to African farmers. His philosophy is simple: When rain falls on his land, he uses all of it.

    Brush’s farmland is contoured in such a way that rainfall does not run off his land. Mulch and vegetation offer shade, slowing evaporation while allowing the soil to stay moist enough to feed his trees. Using infiltration systems, he redirects water underground. With no runoff, he’s able to recharge his well despite minimal rainfall.

    It’s not a simple solution, but it works. Brush proves it’s possible for California to continue to meet the nation’s produce demands if farmers can adapt to the new reality of cultivation in an increasingly arid environment.

    The drought isn’t just forcing farmers to rethink their water usage. The average Californian is increasingly water-savvy, both in the garden and in the kitchen. With no wastewater or electricity demands, Pelican’s point-of-entry filtration systems and 3-stage under-the-counter drinking water filters help non-farmers do their part to conserve water and reduce their impact on dwindling water resources.