2 things Rice Farmers do with water after they grow your Sushi Rice!

By Tim Johnson

Rice harvest is right around the corner in the Sacramento Valley with most farmers circling mid-September to start their combines and begin harvest of the nation’s sushi rice.

While the start of harvest is still a month away, farmers are already thinking about when they will begin the process of draining the fields.

Kept in a permanent flood of only about five inches of water from May through August, the fields need to be dried sufficiently in order to support the weight of the combine and large bankout wagons. It takes about two weeks for the heavy clay soils to dry sufficiently. In addition to holding the water during the growing season, the heavy clay soils of the rice paddies mean that water is available at the end of the growing season for other uses.

What happens to that water on 375,00 acres of Sacramento Valley rice? The answers will amaze you!

1) Returns to the river to help fish
Draining rice fields could not come at a better time if you are a salmon in the Sacramento River. This
extra pulse of water from rice fields aids Chinook salmon, as they head up the Valley’s rivers to spawn.

2) Flows to the refuge to help ducks and shorebirds
Water from draining rice fields is also diverted to state, federal and private wetlands to benefit the early arrivals of ducks, geese and shorebirds that spend the winter in the Valley. The first arrivals are the shorebirds beginning in July followed by White–fronted Geese and Northern Pintails.


Tim Johnson, CRC President & CEO