The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) released a new report this week providing recommendations for maintaining agricultural productivity while dealing with the challenges of ground water depletion in areas such as California’s Central Valley and the Great Plains. Groundwater is the Earth’s most extracted raw material with approximately 70% of withdrawals worldwide being used to support agricultural production systems. Within the United States alone, about 71 percent of groundwater withdrawals are used for irrigating croplands. Most irrigation occurs in arid, dry areas that rely on groundwater pumped from underground aquifers. Within the United States, groundwater depletion has occurred in many important agricultural production regions, the Ogallala Aquifer (Great Plains Region) has seen the biggest impact of water depletion, with some areas declining by more than 50 meters. The report says policy makers need to fully assess the consequences of groundwater depletion while also promoting a number of measures to prevent it, including the installation of more efficient irrigation systems, the development of crops that require less water, and the implementation of economic incentives that promote water conservation. The report was compiled by seven authors and reviewed by three individuals who have spent their careers researching this area of study.
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