What is in this article?:
- Water issues becoming more commonplace in Southeast agriculture
- Water storage is simple solution
- Agriculture is largest user
- Corn is target crop
• In the Southeast, the problem is not how much rainfall, rather how to manage the rain the area gets.
• Water quality issues used to drive water policy.
• Now, water quantity is becoming a key issue — much as it has been for many years in the western half of the country.
LONG-TERM, off-season projects as simple as redesign of a farm fish pond or enclosure of drainage areas for use as water catchment can become pivotal management decisions in future years for Southeastern growers.
Water storage is simple solution
One relatively simple solution to water quantity issues is water storage. Unfortunately, there are few water storage facilities in the Southeast and no definitive plans for adding new ones, the North Carolina expert says.
In Raleigh, for example, Holman says the average rainfall of 44-45 inches per year is more than adequate to grow crops. The problem is timing of the rain and how it is dispersed among rural and urban areas.
The future of water in the region, Holman says, swings on four issues:
• Highs and lows in water supply must be better balanced.
• States and other municipalities must be in collaboration, not conflict over rights and usage.
• Utility companies must sell water services, not gallons of water.
• 21st century manufacturers of all water using products must become more efficient.
One trend that is sure to help agriculture, he adds, is toward developing different types of water to sell. Only a small percentage of water use goes for potable water — and that percentage is shrinking in most parts of the country, he says.
Already, small industries and businesses like Duke University, are using catchment facilities to capture rainfall and use it for non-potable sources. Though relatively small in scale, he says, the results so far have been impressive in the reduced water demand Duke University has on the City of Durham.
“I think one change we must see in the water business is that companies and municipalities are going to have to turn to telling water services, not gallons of water.
“In drought times, these companies urge people to cut back water use and in times of over-supply the demand is low. So, selling water by the gallon isn’t a good business model,” Holman says.
“Municipalities must do a better job of raising money to build more water storage facilities. The back to back drought years of 2007-2008 demonstrated that quite clearly, but still there is no large scale movement to change how we manage water. As is the case with energy usage, there is no national policy for water use,” Holman adds.
Where do the changes in water use policy leave agriculture?