Arizona and California have plenty of water, but only if we use it wisely. This water shortage is as real as it gets, and if we don’t do something about it right now, you better believe in the very near future you will see huge water rations and home water bills reaching as high as $250 monthly. Just because you are not a farmer doesn’t mean that you will be exempt from the water rationing and the high cost that shortages bring. Small businesses, homes and others, in reality meaning everyone, will be affected one way or the other.
Arizona and California over the years have neglected to upgrade or even maintain natural watersheds.
My family and I have been involved in agriculture for many generations, so I do understand the necessity for water. Many tenant framers are like locusts, they rape these farms’ water supplies and move on, leaving very little for the future. Most farmers in Arizona and California are still using outdated and obsolete irrigation systems, sad to say, with no intention of bringing their irrigation systems up to date.
This has to be fixed now, it can’t wait a year or two if we want water for the future. By not modernizing their irrigation systems they continue to waste 30% to 60% of the water, that is insane.
Some Pinal County water districts are chomping at the bit to drill more irrigation wells. My God, that is like putting a cheap bandage on a blood-gushing wound and doesn’t solve the problem.
Upgrading their irrigation systems, not growing water-hog crops like alfalfa will solve the problem, that should be a no-brainer. Drilling more irrigation water wells will drain our aquifers.
The statement I am going to make now is going to be extremely unpopular. The cold hard fact is that alfalfa hay should not be grown under any circumstances in deserts of Arizona of California for export to China, Saudi Arabia or any other country. We don’t have the water to feed their livestock. We can live without milk, no human or country can survive without fresh water.
These countries are not buying alfalfa for animals, they are buying fresh water. We do not have fresh water to sell them and need to stop this insanity immediately. If these countries need milk, cheese or ice cream, for God’s sake, sell it to them but don’t allow them to control our natural resources, especially fresh water that is in short supply around the world.
Alfalfa crops use 7 acre-feet or more while other crops use 3 or 4 feet or less.
Today farmers can save 30% to 60% by upgrading their irrigation systems; by installing drip irrigation we have just permanently solved our water shortage.
I will personally hate it when the government mandates anything in private business. But when a business has a huge effect on everyone in the state and country, sometimes it is necessary. When people refuse and continue to waste water and other natural resources for their personal gain without any regards to everyone, government mandates become necessary.
If we water districts and cities start drilling new water wells, they will drain our underground aquifers, and that is a fact. Many people that bought farms that had no water wells knew that when they bought them, that is why they were sold so cheap. Farmers with old established water rights and being careful and spending the money conserving groundwater and building up water credits did so for a reason. They understood what happens if you have land without water. Over-pumping land is very dangerous in Arizona. Farmers saw wells cave in.
1. Alfalfa hay grown for export must stop in Arizona and California this year. We do not have the water, we can’t wait, or Lake Mead will look just like San Carlos — bone dry.
2. Absolutely no more double-cropping until we recharge our lakes.
3. Farmers have to update their irrigation. Drip on all row crops. Just laser-leveling is not good enough anymore.
4. Stop growing water hog crops like alfalfa.
Water used to grow alfalfa for exports benefits only a few people compared to the millions of people in Arizona that suffer badly when we dry up our watersheds.
Farmers converting to drip irrigation will save a minimum of 50%, which is huge and will fix the problem. To drill new wells and continue to waste water with out-of-date flood irrigation borders on stupid.
A good freshwater supply is the lifeline in Arizona.
Jack Dixon is a longtime Casa Grande farmer.