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Fluid Journal : Fluid Journal 2002-2004
Dr. Terry A. Tindall Drought and the talk of drought means we in agriculture must work to increase water-use efficiency through a better understanding of crop water use. Water and water quality have always been the heart, life and soul of western agriculture. The need and concern for available water will never go away in an agricultural setting where land, irrigation water, and crop production are so closely tied. Water for agriculture and the quantities it takes for production are becoming an increasingly divisive topic within western communities. This has been especially true during the last three or four years where concerns about low water availability and increasingly higher demands for water have been voiced throughout the western states and provinces of North America. The public within these western areas considers water issues as extremely important. Most people want clean drinking water, clean rivers, and plenty of salmon and other fish species. However, this same public, especially within urban settings, does not place equal priority on water use for agriculture. Those within these communities, who have plenty to eat, forget the absolute dependency on water of the very food crops they consume. While those of us in agriculture need to practice good stewardship of this precious resource, we need at the same time to remind our Summary: Agronomists and crop advisors should promote those crops that require less water in those areas where water restrictions are likely to occur. This entails making sure their growers, especially in western irrigation areas, are well aware of the consequences of ignoring prudent practices that help conserve water. urban friends of the vital role agriculture plays in contributing to the well being of our communities and our neighbors (Canada and Mexico). Increasing scarcity As of this writing there are many areas in the west where snow pack is 30 percent below average. Many areas of the intermountain west (Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington) need 120 to 130 percent above average snow to have near "normal" irrigation for the 2003 growing season. If these snow pack levels are not obtained, the consequences will be serious. Recent storms prior to the beginning of 2003 have provided the Cascades and Sierra Nevada ranges with good levels of moisture. However, the Northern Rockies are still 40 to 50 percent below average. Oregon hydrologist Jon Lee reports statewide snow pack at 29 percent of average, the lowest of any western state and one of the worst ever. More than half Oregon's 36 counties remain in a state of drought emergency. Severe drought continues in Colorado. Tree-ring studies indicate that the present drought is the worst in 300 years. Within the Colorado River basin, flows have been the lowest on record. Because of concerns of insufficient water for urban areas, there are plans to tap water from surrounding states that traditionally has been used by agriculture. One proposal by a Colorado company envisions drilling wells in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, then transporting the water to Denver and surrounding cities. Nebraska Senator Ed Schrock recently remarked, "There will come a time when populated areas like those on the eastern slopes of Colorado will demand our water. The crops and livestock of Nebraska will take second and third place to these urban interests." Some hopeful signs According to national weather forecasters, the outlook for water availability through winter 2003 storms in some parts of the west is good. Highest probability is the continuation of an active storm track across the southwest U.S. "There is a classic earmark of El Nino's wintertime influence," explains Stu Ostro, senior meteorologist. "It has made its presence felt, and we see no reason why this won't continue." Other meteorologists are predicting that a zone of the west, which would include southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and portions of Texas, will experience above-normal precipitation. However, because of El Nino's Which Will It Be? Early Spring 2003
Fluid Journal 1999-2001
Fluid Journal 2005-2007