California Net Importer of Water, Pacific Institute Says

California is more reliant on water outside its borders than within, making the Golden State a “net importer” of the liquid used for growing crops, lawns and sating athletes’ thirst, according to a report.

The state’s “total water footprint” is about 64 million acre-feet, or 20 trillion gallons, more than double the annual average combined flow of its two largest rivers, the Pacific Institute said today in a report.

The estimate is the first statewide analysis of its kind and includes water used directly by individuals and businesses and also the amount consumed indirectly to produce imported as well as California-made goods. About 44 million acre-feet of water is required to produce the goods and services that are imported and consumed in the state, according to the report.

“Overall we’re a net importer of water,” Heather Cooley, co-director of the institute’s water program, said by phone. “We’re actually importing water in the form of our goods in California.”

More than 90 percent of the water footprint is associated with agricultural, meat and dairy products, 4 percent with household use and 3 percent with products such as clothes and electronics, according to the study. Additionally, about half of the estimate is associated with water use in other U.S. states and 11 percent with use in Canada, Mexico and China.

The data suggests that “we’re vulnerable to water supply constraints in other parts of the world,” Cooley said. “It does affect us indirectly because of where we’re sourcing our goods.”

The estimates don’t factor in requirements for energy, including power generation and transportation fuels, Cooley said.

Her Oakland, California-based research organization is working on a separate study about those uses and preliminary analysis suggests that California’s water requirements for electricity production are “very low” and likely ’’much higher’’ for transportation fuels, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Herndon in San Francisco at aherndon2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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