Water Conservation And Agriculture In The Colorado River Basin

2111 words - 8 pages

According to Webster’s dictionary, agriculture is defined as the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products. Essentially, agriculture is a key element to a thriving and sustainable community for the seven billion habitants of our planet Earth. A key resource in providing life to necessary agriculture is the Colorado River. From its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California in Mexico, the Colorado River spans more than 1400 miles in its entirety. Encompassing the river, the Colorado River basin covers more than 256,000 square miles across the southwestern United States, providing valuable support to a large amount of systems (Cohen et al. V). This crucial resource supports more than thirty million people, four million acres of farmland, seven states, the two largest reservoirs in the United States, and the largest irrigation canal in the world (Water Uses). Although agriculture is still by far the largest user of water in the Colorado, more than ninety percent of pasture and cropland within the Colorado River basin receives water from the Colorado River as a supplement to support growth (Cohen et al. V). With this incredible amount of water comes a very large concern: are these water usage practices sustainable over a longer period of time? If not, how are we to combat the lasting effects set by unstainable water use?
Agriculture and irrigation have long been a part of the Colorado River basin and desert southwest. Irrigation is the artificial supply of water to the land, an integral part of the Colorado River and its basin. More than 1,500 years ago, the Hohokam irrigated more than 200,000 acres of land. However, there are more than 3.2 million acres of irrigated land within the entire boundaries of the Colorado River basin in the United States and Mexico. In addition, more than 2.5 million acres across Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Southern California are irrigated with water exported from the basin (Cohen et al. 1). In its entirety, irrigated agriculture consumes more than seventy percent of consumptive water in the basin (McChesney).
In order to fully understand the need for sustainable agriculture, we first must look at the agricultural decisions as a whole. There are two factors that go into acreage decisions: which crops to grow and how many acres to plant. There are also two factors that go into irrigation decisions: the amount of irrigation and timing (Gaston 6). The acreage decisions and irrigation decisions go hand in hand, due to many factors. There are certain crops that require much more water and irrigation to deliver a crop, and certain times of the year also require much more water and irrigation produce a thriving season of crops. By looking at previous years in crop production and irrigation, farmers are able to get a deeper look at the future of their seasons.
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