With a projected 25 percent and 50 percent increase in U.S. and world populations, respectively, by 2050, it is inevitable that there will be substantial increases in freshwater use for food, fiber and fuel production, as well as municipal and residential consumption. This increased water use will not come without consequences, and as one of the largest users of water in the United States, agriculture will be impacted significantly by changes in water availability and cost. An abundant, reliable supply of water to meet demands cannot be taken for granted.

To evaluate current trends, summarize key vulnerabilities, and identify possible solutions to current and future challenges, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology convened a task force of eight scientists, educators and resource analysts who have prepared a new CAST Issue Paper, “Water, People, and the Future: Water Availability for Agriculture in the United States.”

Through case studies, the new CAST publication discusses the diverse demands for water resources using the impacts, regulations, challenges, and policies of four specific areas of the United States — California, Arizona, Florida, and the High Plains — with particular focus on the implications for agriculture. Study authors conclude that even with efforts to increase water-use efficiency, it seems likely that agriculture faces a future with less water available.

Therefore, it is critical that policymakers, water managers and water users work collaboratively to achieve sustainable water resource management, says task force Chair Sharon Megdal, Water Resources Research Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz. "Multiple issues require attention-water quality, environmental water needs, municipal demands for water, water resource availability, agricultural water use-and no issue can be addressed individually. Supplying future water demand requires continued investments and efforts to enhance water use efficiency. Difficult social and economic transitions and tradeoffs may lie ahead."

Source: Council for Agricultural Science and Technology