We just can’t stop talking about water right now, can we? Between Jason’s post on the future of water, John Dougall’s repeated head-bonking of crooked water districts, and the nervous worrying about an exceptionally warm winter with low snow pack, I think we’re getting a pretty good idea that the second driest state in the country could stand to spend a little time thinking about the most important natural resource for sustaining life. The most surprising part in the discussion in finding out just how much water agriculture is responsible for using.
Or maybe more accurately not using.
Apparently a significant amount of the water “used” for farming and ranching doesn’t even make it to fields and livestock. In one case, a whopping 88% of the water flagged for that purpose ended up going back into the ground because it’s going through irrigation canals that have been around since the 1800s. Digging ditches can get your water going places, sure, but a technology perfected about the time Mesopotamia was the happening place to be could probably stand an upgrade or two.
The Utah Rivers Council proposes investing in modernizing irrigation distribution to greatly boost efficiency. The Utah Farm Bureau agrees, though they also want to continue developing reservoirs and water sources to boost supply. I agree with both of them. We absolutely cannot stand losing 32% of the state’s total water usage to poor distribution methods. We also can’t slack on finding better ways to store water from wet months and years to use in dry months and years.
Those are just the big problems fixed with small investments, though. Working to put more water-efficient farming methods into use is a long-term project with huge potential gains. It’s also a lot more cost-efficient than pipe dreams (see what I did there?) like siphoning more water from Lake Powell. While curbing residential use and lawn watering are important, they’re a very small slice of the pie in comparison. We seem to get caught up on them because most of us live in cities, not near farms.