parker's stuff

Who's really using up the water in the American West? - Vox →

The American West is running out of water. Each year the aquifers drop to their lowest levels. Where is all the water going? Vox attempts to answer this question.

Residential is about 6%, commercial is another 8%. What consumes the other 86%?

Crop Irrigation.

What’s even more surprising is that the biggest share of this water goes to crops humans don’t eat; the biggest water guzzler is alfalfa. … We can group alfalfa’s water with the water used for other grass hays and for corn silage. Together, this accounts for 32% of the West’s entire water footprint. … These are all crops grown almost exclusively to feed cows. That’s more than all the residential and commercial uses combined.

So what do we do about this? It’s clear that letting our lawns die would have less of an impact than changing our diets. But that solution is a hard sell for consumers. Even the most informed ones.

The video goes on to describe something called rotational fallowing, where agencies representing metropolitan water users (commercial/residential) to set a price that they’ll pay farmers to temporarily stop irrigating a portion of their fields, which farmers can take or leave. I don’t think it’s the cure-all that the viewer should be left considering, but it is worthwhile to watch the video to be more informed about this great imbalance between agriculture and everything else in the American West.