Colorado River Drained by ‘Thirsty’ Crops: A Growing Concern
In a report by Samuel Shaw at HighCountryNews.com, he underscores the crucial issue of the shrinking Colorado River, largely due to the cultivation of "thirsty" crops like alfalfa and Bermuda grass.
STATES COUNTER WATER CRISIS WITH $1.2BN INCENTIVE FOR FARMERS
To counter this, California, Arizona, and Nevada have pledged to stop using a staggering TRILLION GALLONS of river water over the next three years.
They're incentivizing farmers with a whopping $1.2 billion to halt the growth of these water-guzzling crops.
A CENTURY-OLD LAW PROPELLING WATER WASTAGE
Antiquated laws have inadvertently contributed to the problem, compelling farmers to exhaust their water quota or risk forfeiture. You either USE it or LOSE it.
Coupled with the affordability of Colorado River water, this has fostered the use of incredibly inefficient irrigation methods like flood irrigation and sprinklers, notorious for their outrageous water consumption, especially during summer months.
Curiously, it's the parched regions, like California's Imperial Valley in the Sonoran Desert, that produce the most water-demanding hay.
To mitigate extreme temperatures and limited rainfall, farmers resort to over-watering, or heavy irrigation, therefore creating an artificially rainy environment for their crops.
ALFALFA’S ECONOMIC APPEAL AMIDST WATER WOES
In spite of alfalfa's colossal water requirements, it's actually economically lucrative, commanding higher prices than other hay varieties in California for over a decade.
Plus, with the global surge in demand for dairy and beef, a significant chunk of California's alfalfa found its way overseas in 2020.
As strategies are put into place to decrease river water usage, a balance must be found between the economic benefits derived from alfalfa farming and the critical water needs of the Southwest's inhabitants, ecosystems, and other plantations.
The situation truly highlights the necessity for mindful water use in agriculture.
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