Work reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund and Office of Scientific Workforce Diversity under three linked awards—RL5GM118963, TL4GM118965, and UL1GM118964—administered by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
agriculture, alfalfa, California drought, gobernanza hídrica, sequía, water governance
California experienced a severe multiyear drought stretching from 2011 through 2017, significantly reducing surface water supply for ecosystems, agriculture, and humans and prompting coordinated conservation efforts. Given that agriculture is the largest consumptive use of water in the state, one anticipated response to a severe drought would be to decrease production of low-value, high-water-use crops such as alfalfa. In this article we use a multimethod approach to examine both spatial distribution and public perceptions of alfalfa production in California over the course of the 2011 through 2017 drought. We find that although California alfalfa production did decline at the state level, it persisted and even increased in specific areas of the state. We also find that alfalfa persisted even though discourses and understandings that were critical of alfalfa production emerged in public forums during this time. We situate these findings within a broader context of California’s water management system, which meant that in practice, infrastructure and water rights allocation practices left many growers with little incentive to change growing practices, even in the face of serious meteorological drought.
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Published as: Cantor, A., Turley, B., Ross, C. C., & Glass, M. (2022). Changes to California Alfalfa Production and Perceptions during the 2011–2017 Drought. The Professional Geographer, 1-14.