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Water is a Precious Resource

A Nov. 8, 2022 article in Delta Farm Press titled “Water is essence of carbon sequestration” by Ron Smith provides the following points about how water relates to carbon sequestration.

•    Carbon sequestration in agricultural soils receives a lot of attention nowadays. However, without water this perceived link to climate change mitigation will be reduced.

•    Even though the primary focus nowadays is on carbon as related to climate change, the public in general needs to be aware that carbon sequestration and its link to climate change and sustainability do not happen without water.

•    There needs to be more emphasis on the relationship among carbon, water, and agronomic practices in the media.

The above article got me to thinking about water in general as it relates to agriculture and the world’s population. Water, especially that free of contaminants, is the resource that allows all organisms–both plant and animal–to exist and thrive. And lest we forget, water is a finite resource; i.e. it is not subject to increase in today’s environment. In fact, many of the freshwater resources [e.g. aquifers, lakes, rivers and streams] used by agriculture and people in general are in decline, are subject to shortages because of overuse and erratic weather patterns, and/or are contaminated with pollutants from both agricultural and urban environs and activities.

All people, not just farmers, must look at the water resource as the lifeblood of existence that must be protected. It is easy to single out agricultural water use for the application of conservation measures [e.g. improved irrigation technology, reduction of runoff, minimization of nutrient deposition in freshwater sources], but other segments of society must also be held accountable for water conservation. Urban users must come to realize that curtailing agricultural water use will, in the long run, affect food production, and that will affect all people who depend on farmers to supply ample food for their consumption. Also, urban encroachment onto agricultural lands ultimately affects food production capability and the supply and quality of water that would have potentially been available for agricultural use.

A Nov. 10 article titled “US and global war on farmers intensifies amid food shortages” by Alex Newman brings up another interesting point. Even though we all agree that agriculture must do its part to sustain a clean environment with little or no harm to its resources, there is also the overriding point that the food supply must continually increase if we are to keep feeding an increasing population. And it will be farmers who are pressed to produce more food so that the world’s billions of humans can continue to eat and be productive. More food production will necessarily mean that agriculture must have a dependable supply of water from current sources. Thus, curtailment of water used in agriculture will most likely lead to a decrease in food production at a time when increased food production is needed. U.S. farmers are doing an excellent job of producing both food and fiber to support the world’s population, while concurrently protecting the resources used for that production. They are doing this in the face of ever-increasing regulations and roadblocks to increased production. This is highlighted in the above-linked article.

Let there be no misunderstanding. The world’s population is increasing and will continue to do so barring some worldwide catastrophic event or events that significantly reduce that population, and the concurrent recognition by world religious and political leaders that population growth must be immediately curtailed on a worldwide scale in order to reduce the strain on resources, including water, needed to sustain human life and well-being on this planet. At this time, that is not happening, and it appears that this increasing population will overcome the resources needed to sustain it. One of those resources is water.

Yes, food is important, but without water, the production of that food will not happen. Remember, “When and where food is plentiful, there are many problems; when and where there is little or no food, there is only one problem”. And unless water is treated as a priority resource necessary for agriculture, the latter part of this quote will be the future.

Composed by Larry G. Heatherly, Nov. 2022,