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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #345901

Research Project: Precipitation and Irrigation Management to Optimize Profits from Crop Production

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Water issues and agriculture - the view from 30,000 feet

item Evett, Steven - Steve

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/1/2017
Publication Date: 3/3/2017
Citation: Evett, S.R. 2017. Water issues and agriculture - the view from 30,000 feet. [absract]. INonpoint Source Education Watershed Workshop. March 2-3, 2017, Lake Ozark, Missouri.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: There are different perspectives on the big picture of water issues especially as they relate to water use, and watershed planning considerations. The big picture of water issues can be couched in terms that the general public can understand, rather than an academic, statistically laden presentation. Folks involved in watershed issues in Missouri are a mixture of the urban and rural general public, municipal officials, county officials, and state and federal agency representatives. The common thread for all of these folks is: In some way they are all involved in watershed management and planning activities. The problems they address range from severe drought such as happened in the 1930s to severe flooding such as happened in 2010 and 2012. Streamflows vary greatly with the cycles of drought and extremely larger precipitation, increasing risk to farm operations, the environment and municipalities. The cycles of extreme wet and dry can be rapid. For example in the Texas Panhandle the wettest year on record, 2015, followed the driest year on record, 2011, by only four years. In Missouri, record drought and low streamflows occurred in 2012, while in 2015, streamflows were near record highs. Across the nation, looking at streamflows as reported by USGS can give a good sense of large scale patterns of drought and above average precipitation. For example in February 2017, the west coast and Sierras were receiving almost record rainfall and snow in the mountains, while much lower than average stream flows in the southeastern US were the obvious signature of longer term droughty conditions. The effects on regional crop productivity are clear. Fortunately, a combination of satelliate remote sensing, on the ground sensors and stream gage networks, combined with improved and more complex and complete models, are allowing predictions of soil moisture several weeks out, which greatly aides farm planning for planting, fertilization, harvest, storage and sales. The reality is that in every year there is some part of the nation in extreme drought and some part experiencing flooding. In five midwestern states over a twelve-year period there were $2.95 billion in crop insurance payments due to flooding and $2.67 billion in payments due to drought. The paradox of plenty of water, but often too much or too little, tells us that our water management efforts fall far short of what is required for sustainable agriculture, including rural economies.