Running dry, conclusion
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 28 07:30:22 MDT 2002
NY Times, Aug. 28, 2002
Saving Water, U.S. Farmers Are Worried They'll Go Dry
By DOUGLAS JEHL
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.
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