The Hazards of Irrigation

From John, September 22nd, 2023

According to a recent in-depth New York Times inquiry into water usage nationwide, Oregon in is experiencing significant groundwater depletion. And in a report from the Oregon Water Resources Board, over 2/3 of monitored wells are showing a statistically significant decline in water levels. Aquifers are a finite resource which means that we cannot indefinitely continue to treat them in this manner.

While a small group of grape growers in Oregon and Northern California have long been promoting dry-farmed vineyards as a better alternative than irrigated vineyards, ground water continues to be pumped in increasing quantities at many vineyards around us. This water usage is not only unnecessary but is harmful to the aquifers upon which we rely.

So what are we to do? The members of the Deep Roots Coalition have already demonstrated that it is not at all necessary to water vineyards.  And, in fact, better quality fruit and therefore wine emanate from our non-irrigated vineyards.

Meanwhile, in search of bigger yields and bigger profits, vineyards who continue to irrigate are endangering our collective long term water security.  That is because aquifers are often interconnected so a neighbor’s overuse ultimately will affect adjacent wells. In the Napa Valley, over-pumping of the groundwater has become so severe that the Napa River is now dry for much of the year.

I think that the ultimate solution lies with you the wine consumer to help put a stop to this insanity. Do not buy wine produced from irrigated vineyards. Much like buying organic produce, put your faith and dollars in wines from the Deep Roots Coalition or simply inquire of wineries who you might presently support “do you irrigate your vines?”. If the answer is anything but  “no, only for establishing new vines” please find another winery to support.

Honestly the future of both the Oregon and California wine industries depend putting a stop to this situation.

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