Agriculture needs to start conserving water, badly

A new study by David Pimentel in the journal BioScience backs its call for greater agricultural water conservation with some disturbing statistics. Worldwide, agriculture uses some 70 percent of the freshwater supply. The ginormous Ogallala aquifer, which supplies water to a fifth of all irrigated land in the U.S., has dropped by 33 percent since 1950. And despite the declining importance of agriculture to our economy — agriculture represents 3 percent of California’s economy but uses 85 percent of its freshwater — the federal government continues to pump water subsidies into the ag industry, to the tune of $2.5 billion to $4.4 billion a year. By 2050, says Bob Stallman of the American Farm Bureau Federation, “water will be the most critical resource issue we face in the entire world.” Pimentel suggests that governments subsidize wasteful water practices less and conservation strategies more.