A Wet Crop in Dry Lands

Part of the Water: H2O = Life exhibition.

Rice: Wet crop in dry lands

Think of rice farms and you probably imagine Asian hillsides drenched by monsoon rains. But more than two million tons of rice is harvested each year in California's Central Valley, which gets almost no rainfall for six months each year. About half of that rice is exported to Asia. And nearly 25 percent of all the food eaten in the U.S. comes from the Central Valley. With such huge demands for water, California's farmers depend on a vast network of federally funded dams, pumps and canals.

By the Numbers

To grow one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rice, it takes 3,400 liters (900 gallons) of water.

Sierra Nevada Mountains

If climate change causes reductions in California's annual rain and snowfall as predicted, growers may be forced to grow less rice and other thirsty crops.


Some rice growers, and many other farmers in the Central Valley, treat their crops with pesticides--chemicals that kill insects or other creatures that might harm the plants. These chemicals can wash into the soil and the groundwater, eventually reaching nearby streams. Many rice growers have started taking steps to reduce pesticide runoff.