USDA-NIFA’s Water for Agriculture: A mechanism to fund a broader portfolio in groundwater sustainability.
USDA National Institute of Food and Agricultureure
Video Not Available
NIFA launched a new challenge area, Water for Agriculture, to tackle critical water issues such as availability (quality + quantity) for irrigation and food processing, drought preparedness, excess soil moisture, flooding, nutrient loss and contamination in agricultural, rural and urbanizing areas across the U.S. Continued significant variations from the historical rate of water supply, demand and quality are projected to have major impacts on agricultural, forest, and rangeland production systems making the initiation of this new challenge area particularly timely. Of particular interest is the improvement of NIFA’s portfolio of groundwater-focused projects in water stressed regions like the Colorado River Basin (CRB). Population growth and a changing climate are taxing the future reliability of Colorado River water supply. This vulnerability has been witnessed in the first decade of the 21st century due to the recent prolonged dry spell in the western U.S., including the Colorado River Basin (CRB). Freshwater in the CRB is fully appropriated, with agriculture the biggest consumer at about 80%. Growing urban areas are the second largest water demand, expected to increase dramatically by as much as 80% by 2025. Concomitantly, in western North America, the timing of spring snowmelt has shifted to earlier in the year from 1948 to 2000 due to warmer temperatures. These scenarios have implications for the sustainability of irrigated agriculture in the CRB--if innovative new strategies are not forthcoming, water shortage in the CRB will inevitably result in reduced agriculture to feed urban water demands. NASA’s GRACE mission showed that demands have outpaced supplies by as much as 30 percent, with groundwater filling the gap. Both the problems and solutions to water scarcity, particularly groundwater sustainability in the CRB lie within agriculture, and because of the complexities involved, an integrated, multi-state, and multi-disciplinary Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) offered by Water for Agriculture could help to address water scarcity across the CRB’s geographic reach, number of water governance organizations, rapidly changing urban-rural landscape, and the significant presence of federal lands and reclamation projects. Furthermore, the existence of common water issues across the region serves as the basis for regional coordination to efficiently allocate and target personnel and funding resources for problem identification, education, and management, and the resolution of current and emerging surface and groundwater availability problems from regional to local levels. NIFA’s funded portfolio must expand to address groundwater loss (70% in the CRB over the last 10 years), if both groundwater and agriculture sustainability are to continue. NIFA’s presentation will suggest how the development of innovative management practices, technologies, and tools for farmers, ranchers, forest owners and managers, public decision-makers, public and private managers and citizens could improve groundwater quantity and quality across critical regions of the U.S. NIFA’s approach requires the linkage of social, economic, and behavioral sciences with biophysical sciences and engineering to promote science based technology adoption and behavior change and towards true solution of groundwater issues.