It seems like every time I check in the media I’m continuing to find new voices weighing in on the water crisis facing many western states, mostly due to the dwindling Ogallala aquifer, and how it’s going to affect both agriculture and our cities in the future.
The most recent one is a documentary, “Thirsty Land,” about extreme drought, agriculture and the water crisis in the western U.S., and how it’s impacting farmers, cities and the environment. You can see a list of cities where screenings are scheduled by clicking here. The film has already been shown in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska this year.
Thirsty Land is the product of Emmy Award-winning producer Conrad Weaver, who also produced the 2014 documentary feature, the “Great American Wheat Harvest.”
The Scottsbluff (Neb.) Daily Herald carried a good article about a screening of the film there and summarized the question-and-answer session afterward with a panel of experts.
Some of the solutions thrown out to handle water issues included converting farms to less water-intensive crops like fruits and vegetables (unlikely due to lack of markets and precipitation) and desalinization plants (too expensive for the returns, Weaver says).
Genetic seed, drip irrigation, different crops and reduced-tillage practices are more likely to play a big role in trying to manage the water crisis facing some states, the article says, quoting Pete Lapaseotes, a board member on the North Platte Natural Resources District and irrigator, cattle feeder and agribusiness owner.
The film reportedly discusses water issues with several farmers in the western U.S. who are already doing what they can to minimize their use of water. One panelist stated correctly that water scarcity isn’t a problem that will be solved in one day or one growing season.
I know that many federal, state and local governments, Extension offices and other organizations have been working very hard to get the message out about efficient irrigation, reducing or eliminating tillage, improving soil health and other conservation tools.
Seeing the writing on the wall, many farmers have bravely switched to no-till, risking anything from ridicule from neighbors to financial failure, and have opened the doors to their farms to host field days.
I think this documentary further reinforces how important all that work is right now, and underscores the need to continue supporting these stakeholders in their efforts.