Wasting water on monocrops

Corn Field near Green, Kansas

Photo by Flickr user June Woest, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Tom Philpott’s post this morning at Mother Jones focuses on the role of cattle and corn farming in hastening the depletion of an important water resource in the West. As he writes,

crop yields are borne up by a gusher of soon-to-vanish irrigation water. That’s the message of a new study by Kansas State University researchers. Drawing down their region’s groundwater at more than six times the natural rate of recharge, farmers there have managed to become so productive that the area boasts “the highest total market value of agriculture products” of any Congressional district in the nation,” the authors note. Those products are mainly beef fattened on large feedlots; and the corn used to fatten those beef cows. But they’re on the verge of essentially sucking dry a large swath of the High Plains Aquifer, one of the United States’ greatest water resources.

It’s an informative piece, with great infographics and links including one to an article in The New York Times by Michael Wines. Find Philpott’s full post here.


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