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Water Management

April 27, 2015 to May 3, 2015

"Water is a shared asset. It belongs to all of us. Its misuse is yet another example of the Tragedy of the Commons. As long as there's water in our reservoirs and aquifers, farmers will find a way to pump it onto their fields. If people don't understand the vital nature of protecting these shared water resources, what hope do we have for saving them?

“Water use” — a common topic of discussion. Especially in the western parts of the U.S. where agriculture accounts for up to 80 percent of water use. In this week’s Food List, we investigate different ways for food production to be water smart.

So what does it take to be water smart? It begins by understanding what your water footprint is. And how much water goes into your food.

Its important to keep in mind the water cycle and ways to recharge our reserves. We can easily imagine plentiful water sources. In agriculture, new and innovative methods are becoming more and more popular to manage use. Especially in response to the drought in the west where irrigation efficiency is one of the greatest challenges to resilient farmers.

How are farmers being more mindful of water? Some methods are target specific, such as drip irrigation. Others look to nature for answers. Holistic management, such as keyline designs, rotation range feeding, and dry farming, mimic systems within nature. There are many progressive ways to protect our water resources.

Like local food systems, local water systems must be taken into constant consideration. Think about how you can increase water efficiency, from farm to table.

This week's terms

Water Footprint

Our water footprint is the volume of freshwater used in the production and supply of the goods and services that make up our lifestyle. It consists of water we use directly (for example, for bathing, washing dishes, or irrigating lawns) as well as water we consume indirectly (for example, the water used to grow the cotton in our shirt). The average U.S. resident's water footprint totals some 2,000 gallons a day, about half of which is attributable to diet.

Peak Water

The idea that there are ultimate limits to our ability to take and use water from natural systems. For rivers, streams, and many aquifers, humanity is reaching (or passing) those limits now.


Recharge (n.)/Recharging (v.): Replenishing an underlying groundwater aquifer through the movement of surface water into the ground by natural or assisted means.

Drip Irrigation

A system of plastic tubing with sophisticated drippers spaced at a set distance that enables the slow, precise and targeted application of water and nutrients to a specific location at the root of the plant in a way which maximizes water utilization while preventing water evaporation, runoff and waste.

Keyline System

An ordered set of principles, techniques, and systems. When fully utilized, keyline allows for the sustainable development of land and water resources in agriculture and suburban areas. On keyline properties, the typical vistas are of lakes with water birds, roads along the contour and ridgelines, contour tree belts, healthy crops and green pastures growing in dark biologically green soil.

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