The Greeley Tribune published an article recently about the Ute tribe in Southwest Colorado surviving on only 10% of its water. That’s remarkable!
Food and water are always on my mind, and I immediately asked myself, “Were they able to grow food at all?”
Our place in life relies on water. It is our most precious resource. It’s why I wrote a book that helps farmers save water.
Unfortunately, only about three percent is drinkable. Humans use most of the drinkable water in the world to grow food. Over a trillion, trillion gallons of fresh water were used in 2021 alone.
This makes sense because we need food to live. The relationship between water and food is critical to any country’s well-being, economy, and security.
Irrigated agriculture is the world’s largest consumer of freshwater supplies. The World Bank states one-fifth of all land used to grow food is under irrigation. This equals forty percent of the total food produced worldwide. While seemingly efficient, irrigated crops use most of a nation’s water. The US Geological Survey says the US used about 120 billion gallons per day for farm water.
Similar trends can be seen in other countries.
In dry regions like Australia, the Middle East, and the American West, water is scarce. Water scarcity is when there is not enough water to meet all demands, including that needed to grow food and fodder. A better word would be drought.
If the United Nation’s estimate of ten billion people by 2050 is accurate, the demand for water will only increase with time for agricultural and non-agricultural uses. As will drought.
It seems every year, The US has drought-related conditions and asks its people to prepare for water restrictions.
We have experienced severe shortages in water supply due to repeated droughts. Natural water resources are affected by global climate change. Many areas have less rainfall and higher temperatures causing grasslands to deteriorate. Fields used for hay suffer.
Over the past years, we have been flooded with news about farmers who face drought. Drought poses challenges for sustainable field cultivation. In many arid regions of the world, farmers have depleted groundwater supplies and rely on imported water.
Sinkholes show where man has sucked out all the water. Water for those farmers must arrive in tankers or totes at much higher costs. The word drought will haunt farmers for years to come. Those living without water may already know the horrors.
Yet drought implies something temporary. In my thirty-seven years, I have yet to see the drought disappear. There is a better term for this, and it’s called aridification. That is a fancy way of saying it’s dry and will keep getting drier. The next step is a desert. Funny, many people refer to our area as a desert already.
The radio show 1A ran a story about how producers here are farming in a drought. A story that starts in Greeley, Colorado. Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg and other locals talked about the state’s water challenges. They shared struggles and highlighted how water use efficiency has improved over time, thanks to advances in resource policies, new sprinkler technologies, and farmer cooperation.
But I contend we cannot mend the old model with a band-aid solution. Farmers need practices that improve crop yields with less water. Methods and technologies to improve water use efficiency and productivity are essential. There is a popular interest in hydroponic fodder production.
Hydroponic fodder production is the practice of growing field crops into livestock feed using less water and space. Farmers growing hydroponically in the places like the American West use over 90 percent less water and space than the same crops grown in the field to get the same yields.
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