The increased competition for the use of water from aquifers may negatively affect future agricultural practices in drier regions of the United States, suggests the latest paper released by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. The paper,
Aquifer Depletion and Potential Impacts on Long-term Irrigated Agricultural Productivity, reviews the causes and consequences of groundwater depletion—Earth’s most extracted raw material—with a focus on impacts to agriculture as the largest sector of groundwater use.
Agriculture’s large-scale depletion of groundwater began in the 1950s and tripled by the 1990s with approximately 71 percent directed toward irrigating crops. As the U.S. population increases, demands for more food production and water supplies will stress valuable water resources, especially in locations sensitive to droughts.
John Tracy, director of the Texas Water Resource Institute and task force chair for the CAST paper, stresses the long-term consequences are apparent and must be addressed carefully in order to avoid abusing this type of water resource.
“There is no silver bullet to address groundwater depletion and its consequences. It requires a unique approach to be developed for each situation,” Tracy says. “We must be prepared to address this problem over the long haul and avoid promoting policies that focus on quick fixes that will ultimately fail.”
The CAST publication provides both an outline of current federal and state policies targeting groundwater depletion and suggestions for future mitigation. Executive Vice President of CAST Kent Schescke states the purpose of this publication is to provide accurate, science-based information in order to build effective policies in the agriculture industry.
“Enabling policies that protect and manage our water resources using sound science and engineering is another way we continue to help secure a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply,” Schescke says.
Highlights from this paper include the following:
- An overview of groundwater and its use in the United States
- An outline of geographical areas impacted by groundwater use
- Consequences from depleting aquifers
- Mitigation efforts to reverse groundwater depletion
- A case study on the causes, consequences, and mitigation of groundwater depletion