Irrigation is the art of providing crops with the necessary water needed to grow. One may wonder how the use of millions of gallons of water allows for water conservation. The keyword here is “necessary,” meaning using only the necessary amount needed.
Successfully growing crops has become a meticulous and skilled profession. Over the centuries, farmers have learned the needs of individual crops to near perfection, including when and how to water their produce. Thanks to the wonder of technology, modern irrigation systems allow farmers to micro-manage the irrigation of their crops. With the ability to prevent overwatering, less water is wasted.
So why is it important?
Well simply put, water is finite. Earth may be mostly water but less than 3% of that is freshwater, and almost 70% of that is locked in glaciers and ice caps. Agriculture accounts for most of the water usage in the U.S., with some western state agriculture taking in more than 90% of usage. These numbers get only minimally smaller across other countries.
For many, freshwater seems like an infinite resource. But the sources that feed our irrigation systems are not limitless. In the 1960s, the rivers that fed the Aral Sea of central Asia were diverted to for the use of Soviet irrigation projects. What was once the 4th largest lake in the world is almost completely gone now. This real-life example is the very reason why water conservation within irrigation is essential. It is estimated that by 2050, the world population will be over 9 billion. That is 2 billion more mouths to feeds than there are currently. With agriculture as our biggest source of water usage, we must be able to continue producing food efficiently and consciously.
Using modern irrigation systems, and keeping them maintained and properly functioning, is one of the best things farmers can do to aid in water conservation. Drip irrigation systems use consistent small amounts of water to keep crops moist, but not overwatered. Farmers can control when, where, and how water flows from a single control panel, so crops get the necessary amount of water.
"Water is not infinite, and we should treat it as such."