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Sustainable Water in Agriculture: Doing Your Part

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Water and nourishment are two key components for life on this planet. Without even one of them, humans would be facing a serious crisis. Unfortunately, this scenario might be closer to reality than many of us would like to believe. Many scientists predict a water crisis on the horizon. What makes this even more troubling is the fact that the food we eat is contributing to the potential shortage due to inefficient agricultural practices.

Water and Agriculture

Currently, in the United States of America, over 80% of the freshwater available is being used in agriculture. It makes sense that a substantial amount of water should go towards growing food, after all, it is for our own benefit. Humans need to eat to survive. This much is true, but the issue is that the sheer amount of water being used in agriculture is not necessary and much of it is being wasted.

There are a number of things that cause this. Currently, over 25% of the world’s crops are grown in regions that are under stress for water. Over 50% of the world’s crops are grown in irrigated croplands. This means that water reaches them due to human intervention. What makes these numbers troubling is that 40% of the world’s crops is grown in these areas. Needless to say, these are not sustainable figures. As the world’s population grows, so will the demand for clean, fresh, drinkable water. But the demand on water for agriculture will also grow as more food is required to feed the increasing population.

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Moving forward there are some decisions that need to be addressed in order to better utilize the world’s water and decrease waste. The first is in regards to demand vs. need. An example of this is the almond tree trend in California. Farmers have begun growing these trees that demand a high volume of water in desert regions that are no stranger to drought. They’re doing this because it has proved profitable thanks to the dietary trends of the time. This is unsustainable and simply because there is a demand for something, does not mean it needs to be filled.

This raises the next issue of crop type. Root vegetables like beets and carrots need less water per calorie (energy) compared to others, such as legumes and lentils. Meat and beef farms are on a whole other level of water demand. These are issues that will need to be faced in the future.

More immediately though, there are simple things that can be done to more efficiently use agricultural water. These are techniques that can even be utilized in our own homes, lawns, and gardens so that everyone can do their part.

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation has gained popularity recently amongst in alternative agriculture. It is efficient and promotes conservation, as well as the prevention of runoff. The setup of this irrigation system is more expensive initially, but it will save money in the long run. Different versions of this system date back thousands of years, when farmers in desert regions knew that they had to make every drop count. Essentially how it works is by water being pushed through a long pipe and is gradually released out of long passageways directly to the roots of the crop. This way fewer water evaporates in the sun before reaching the plant. Israel has become a pioneer in this method, with over 60% of their agricultural land successfully using this method.

Vertical Farming

In many ways, this seems like the next step in the. It is the marriage of farming, science, and infrastructure. How it would work is by several levels of crops being farmed on a structure. They would be placed on a specific level according to needs of sunlight and other factors. The top level would be watered and the excess water that is not absorbed by these plants would drip down to the next level, and so on. This way no water is being wasted. It also solves issues of nutrient sharing. It is still in the early stages of development but shows a lot of promise.

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What You Can Do

While it seems simple, the best thing you can do to ensure sustainable practices is to first make efficient water use choices in your own life. Whether this is through the food you choose to eat or the water systems you pick for your home. A good place to start is through a pipeline leak detection assessment. This will ensure that you aren’t wasting money and water due to a leaky pipe somewhere in your system. Continued water main monitoring is also an effective way to combat water wastage in your home. These are simple and easy ways to do your part to make sure we leave a healthy world for future generations.

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