Alfalfa and Water in Imperial County
July 29, 2016
Imperial Valley Is Big on Alfalfa Production
By Brian German, Associate Editor
Imperial County farmers produce more than 100 different types of commodities from bamboo to artichokes, with alfalfa being one of the county’s most significant crops. Linsey Dale, executive director for the Imperial County Farm Bureau, said, “Alfalfa is grown on about 120,000 acres in Imperial County—about one quarter of our total farm acreage. It is a very important crop to the County, both for domestic use and export markets.”
Dale differentiated the alfalfa industry from others. “We are completely Roundup Ready-free. We grow non-GMO alfalfa here in Imperial county,” said Dale, “and it’s a very strong crop. We get about nine cuttings per year, which is very significant compared to most areas in the country,” she noted.
Because Imperial County is a desert environment, many wonder how farmers are able to grow so many different types of crops. “We have a very strong water supply. Our water comes from the Colorado River, which is moved by the Imperial Irrigation District, so we do not rely on rainfall to grow any of our crops. We rely 100 percent on our supply from the Colorado River,” Dale said.
“In terms of overall water usage,” Dale explained, “Imperial County agriculture uses an average of 5.6 acre-feet of water per acre every year. Dale added, “The Imperial Irrigation District holds the water in trust for use on our land. They have instituted what we call an Equitable Distribution Program, in which all of the water is allocated by acreage, so growers have a set amount of acre-feet of water to use on each acre.”