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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Water Resources

Adel Shirmohammadi

Water resources are a vital commodity globally, nationally, and regionally, especially in agriculture, which uses about 70 percent of fresh water. Recent variability in climatic patterns (e.g., uneven distribution of precipitation, rise in global temperature) has brought a significant stress on our water resources. The Ogallala aquifer is still declining despite employment of several efficient irrigation systems. National weather service data indicate an increase of about 1 degree centigrade in the Mid-Atlantic States, including Maryland, over the last 100 years. This increase corresponds to international data that shows a rise of about 1.2 degrees centigrade over the same period. In Maryland, the average monthly precipitation increased in March, April and May and decreased in June, July and August over the last century (1900-2000). This pattern of variability has resulted in farmers investing in overhead irrigation systems, thus creating an economic burden for producers as they adapt to climate change.

Such changes in climate will impact our national resources (Soil, Water and Air) in ways unimagined! For example, we may experience water table rise in coastal areas, thus taking land off of production and reducing the amount of potable water for human consumption. Such changes in hydrologic regime will result in reduced accessibility to clean water for domestic use. It will also affect the quality of water by exacerbating flooding and chemical transport. How do we adapt to these conditions in light of climate change is one of the urgent and timely questions for our research and extension programs. We need to identify adaptation strategies (both research and education programs) to keep agriculture sustainable both economically and environmentally.

Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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