Running dry, conclusion

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Aug 28 07:30:22 MDT 2002

NY Times, Aug. 28, 2002

Saving Water, U.S. Farmers Are Worried They'll Go Dry

PETERSBURG, Tex. — Ronnie Hopper grows cotton, and he has learned firsthand 
that water is precious. The water that he pumps from underground costs him 
five times as much as it used to, so he does his best not to waste a drop.

He has installed new, high-efficiency center-pivot sprinklers, designed to 
eliminate losses to evaporation. He has cut back on his planting on his 
2,000-acre farm to concentrate water on fields that can use it best. He is 
even considering drip irrigation, water by the trickle.

Mr. Hopper has reason to be parsimonious. Though he lives atop one of the 
world's largest aquifers, the Ogallala, which spans eight states, it is 
falling every day. Here in dry northwest Texas, the problem is particularly 
acute, with declines of at least three times the average.

"Putting more wells in this particular ground would be like putting more 
straws in a glass," Mr. Hopper said, ruddy-faced in the Texas sun.

People have warned of the threat to the aquifer, which supplies roughly a 
quarter of the United States' irrigated farmland, for more than 20 years, 
and it is still in danger. But the experience of farmers like Mr. Hopper 
offers reasons both for hope and caution for those struggling to save 
scarce water elsewhere, and to arrest drastic declines in other underground 
supplies in places like India and China.

In a shift of much significance, per capita water use — on the rise in most 
of the rest of the world — is now declining in the United States. That 
retreat has been led by industrial users and farmers like Mr. Hopper, who 
began to save water through technology and conservation even before the 
recent years of drought, which this summer will affect more than a third of 

Now, however, after years of conservation, these users now worry that 
whatever savings are achieved will only be lost to competition from 
fast-growing American cities and suburbs. Despite America's overall decline 
in water consumption, these booming population centers are making greater 
demands than ever on limited water supplies.


Louis Proyect

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