In the western part of the U.S., water is perhaps the dominant issue going forward. The demands for water, especially for urban uses, are increasing. Meanwhile, in the face of this challenge, water storage and capacity essentially have remained flat. Much like Social Security or the federal deficit, it’s only a matter of time before the system – if left unaddressed – will crash.
Environmental groups have been extremely successful in stopping any water development projects. Of course, increased conservation is vital, and it’s an area where much progress has occurred. Unfortunately, demand continues to increase at a faster rate than conservation, which puts agriculture in the crosshairs of the water debate. The problem for agriculture is that it isn’t only a major user of water, but it’s also the easiest to restrict.
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The need for additional water in the West is an issue that isn’t going away. In fact, it’s growing in significance, and the issue is coming down to a choice between taking away access to water by agriculture or building more storage capacity. Needless to say, this aligns agriculture and environmentalists squarely against each other in the grand debate.
The tide does appear to be turning, however. While the environmental movement has been able to stop any increase in water storage and capacity for decades, the political winds seem to be changing as the need for additional water enters the critical stage. The race is now to see if these projects can get completed before demand significantly outstrips supply.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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