As we’ve written about in recent months, drought conditions across the United States are troubling for those in the agriculture industry. Unfortunately, it appears that extremely dry conditions will continue to be a concern in the future.
In fact, the EPA anticipates that at least 40 states will experience water shortages by 2024. For farmers, this means that figuring out long-term water conservation strategies is more important than ever.
So, what can be done to help manage water supply in the field? Let’s take a closer look at why it’s important to make water conservation a priority over the next several years and some long-term strategies farmers can start implementing immediately.
The Importance of Water Conservation for Farmers
It’s never been more important to start implementing water conservation efforts. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service explains:
“Agricultural water supply is emerging as a critical natural resource issue. Irrigated agriculture is essential in meeting our food and fiber production needs. As the nation’s largest water user, agriculture accounts for about 80% of the country’s natural water consumption.”
Of course, as the population continues to grow to unprecedented levels, we’re relying on the agriculture industry more than ever before. If farmers can make concerted efforts to reduce unnecessary water use, they’ll be able to better meet the needs of the population in a more efficient way.
By prioritizing water conservation strategies, growers can spend less money on crop irrigation and help mitigate the effects of water scarcity on the food supply chain. This also helps them to be better prepared for the ongoing effects of climate change that are expected to get worse over the next several decades.
The reality is that if the agriculture industry doesn’t start water conservation efforts now, the ramifications could be dire.
How Growers Can Conserve Water
Fortunately, there are a few ways growers can start conserving water in the immediate future to help make an impact.
Water recycling: Growers can potentially save millions of gallons of water each season just by mitigating runoff. This also helps to prevent chemicals from seeping into groundwater and polluting natural sources of water like rivers and streams.
Soil management: High-quality soil is better equipped to hold moisture and oxygen so that crops can thrive. With proper soil management, farmers can reduce the amount of water they need to use, without an interruption to their yield.
Rainwater storage: Storing the water during periods of rainfall in a reservoir can make it easier to irrigate crops during periods of drought.
Efficient watering methods: Using a precision drip irrigation system instead of overhead spray can help growers use less water. It can also help improve crop growth by making sure water gets directly to the roots.
Weather monitoring: While automatic irrigation systems are convenient, they don’t take weather into account. This means wasted water during periods of precipitation. Instead, growers can use up-to-the-second weather monitoring apps to help better predict rainfall to avoid using irrigation systems at that time.
By putting an emphasis on water conservation efforts, growers can help make a better life for us all.