Water Resources Research
American Geophysical Union
California’s Central Valley region has been called the “bread-basket” of the United States. The region is home to one of the most productive agricultural systems on the planet. Such high levels of agricultural productivity require large amounts of fresh water for irrigation. However, the long-term availability of water required to sustain high levels of agricultural production is being called into question following the latest drought in California. In this paper, we use Bayesian multilevel spatiotemporal modeling techniques to examine the influence of the structure of surface water rights in the Central Valley on agricultural production during the recent drought. California is an important place to study these dynamics as it is the only state to recognize the two dominant approaches to surface water management in the United States: riparian and appropriative rights. In this study, Bayesian spatiotemporal modeling is employed to account for spatial processes that have the potential to influence the effects of water right structures on agricultural production. Results suggest that, after accounting for spatiotemporal dependencies in the data, seniority in surface water access significantly improves crop health and productivity on cultivated lands, but does not independently affect the ability to maintain cultivated extent. In addition, agricultural productivity in watersheds with more junior surface water rights show less sensitivity to cumulative drought exposure than other watersheds, however the extent of cultivation in these same watersheds is relatively more sensitive to cumulative drought exposure.
Nelson, K. S. and Burchfield, E. K. (2017), Effects of the Structure of Water Rights on Agricultural Production During Drought: A Spatiotemporal Analysis of California's Central Valley. Water Resour. Res.. Accepted Author Manuscript.