Boosting irrigation efficiency, managing water supplies and passing a state water bond were among the issues discussed Wednesday at the 2010 Water Technology Conference.
The annual event drew more than 300 researchers, farmers and water industry professionals to the Clovis Memorial Building.
Presented by Fresno State's International Center for Water Technology, the gathering is designed to provide experts and professionals the opportunity to network and tackle some of the state's and region's water challenges.
"What you won't see here is confrontational dialogue about water, that is not productive," said David Zoldoske, the center's director. "We want to talk about real solutions."
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About 50 vendors participated in the conference, offering irrigation solutions from drip to sensors that help improve efficiency.
For farmers, there is no bigger issue than water. In the San Joaquin Valley, three consecutive dry years and environmental restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have pinched water supplies to west-side growers. The result has been fallowed acres and fewer farm jobs.
Although the water outlook has improved this year, with west-side farmers receiving 40% of their federal water allocation, the problem is far from over, said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Sacramento-based Association of California Water Agencies.
"There is no sane water manager in the state who would say we are out of this yet," said Quinn, whose organization represents 450 public water agencies.
Quinn urged passage of an $11.1 billion bond on the November ballot as a solution to the conflict between environmentalists concerned about the delta's health and farmers who depend on water from the region. The bond would provide funding for water conservation, water storage and delta restoration.
Conference keynote speaker Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said California is at a critical stage in developing far-reaching water policy.
"California has the opportunity to show other Western states that it can be done, that you can overcome the divisions and forge a common future," she said prior to her luncheon speech.
While some critics have said the bond package is too costly, Mulroy disagrees.
"Let's put this in perspective," she said. "There are some hotels on the Las Vegas Strip that cost $10 billion."
Mulroy said that as California's population is expected to continue growing, reaching at least 60 million by 2050, the demand for water will only intensify.
"People will be needing jobs, places to live and food to eat," Mulroy said. "Where we get our food is only going to become a bigger issue."