A record-breaking megadrought and endless withdrawals is making the Colorado River run dry; growers in Imperial County east of San Diego will have to cut back on the water they import. The federal government has told seven states to come up with a plan by January 31 to reduce their water supply by 30%, or 4 million acre feet.
The Imperial Valley is by far the largest user of water in the Colorado River’s lower basin, consuming more water than all of Arizona and Nevada combined in 2022. One grower said he already has installed expensive drip irrigation and other advanced technology to reduce the amount of water he applies to his alfalfa and other crops.
With the water from the Colorado River, Imperial County has become the ninth largest agricultural producer in the state, reporting $2.3 billion in sales in 2021, led by cattle and lettuce. By acreage, alfalfa and other forage grasses dominate, carpeting more than half of the farmland. Imperial also produces two-thirds of the vegetables consumed in the US during winter months.