Climate Impacts on Irrigated Agriculture in California’s Central Valley
Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Irrigated farms account for 80%-90% of consumptive water use in the United States and $118.5 billion of US agricultural production. Despite the vast water use and high yields of irrigated croplands, agriculture is typically the lowest value sector in a water resources system, and thus the first to face reductions when water becomes scarce. A major challenge for hydrologic and agricultural communities is assessing the effects of climate change on the sustainability of regional water resources and irrigated agriculture. To explore the interface of water and agriculture in California’s Central Valley, the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) crop model was coupled to the Water Evaluation and Planning System (WEAP) water resources model, deployed over the service area of Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, and forced using both historical and future climate scenarios. This coupling brings water supply constraints to DSSAT and sophisticated agricultural water use, management, and diagnostics to WEAP. Thirty year historical (1980-2009) simulations of WEAP-DSSAT for corn, wheat, and rice were run using a spatially interpolated observational dataset, and contrasted with future simulations using climate scenarios developed by adjusting the spatially interpolated observational dataset with North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program differences between future (2050-2069) and historical (1980-1999) regional climate model simulations of precipitation and temperature. Generally, within the Central Valley temperatures warm by approximately 2°C, precipitation remains constant, and crop water use efficiency increases. On average corn yields decrease, wheat yields increase, and rice yields remain unchanged. Potential adaptations, as well as implications for groundwater pumping, irrigation extent and method, and land use change including fallowing and switching crops, are examined.