Today, fresh water for consumption or usage with irrigation systems is considered a finite resource.
Since the 1960s, the demand for water has dramatically increased, both due to growing populations and the need to irrigate to feed them as well as due to climate conditions.
With groundwater use of nearly 100 billion gallons a day for irrigation and direct use in just the U.S. alone, efficient management of this finite resource has become paramount to be able to keep irrigating the nearly 2 million acres of farmland in the country.
Increased Competition for Water Rights
Using more efficient and precise irrigation systems as irrigation technology improves, managing water resources has become somewhat more straightforward, but there are still challenges ahead that must be considered and solved.
One such challenge is the increased competition for water rights in the United State and throughout the world as water supplies continue to slowly dwindle.
Rapid Depletion of Water Resources
Another challenge that requires careful attention is water overdrafting, considering the fact that water is being withdrawn from many aquifers at a faster rate than natural drainage areas can refill them.
Water loss due to evaporation during irrigation is contributing to this problem.
The eventual result could be reduced aquifer capacity and water quality as supplies slowly diminish.
The depletion of aquifers due to overdrafting can also lead to geological changes that further reduce them, as the ground substance and surface change due to reduced water in the soil.
After geological changes occur, affected aquifers are no longer able to fill to the same capacity, reducing the amount of water that is accessible later.
Over and Under Usage of Irrigation
Under and over irrigation are issues that both present additional water management concerns.
Under irrigation providing only enough water to irrigate plants can create salinity issues in the soil that later requires leaching to remove the excess salts.
Over irrigation results in wasted water and fertilizers, which can pollute the ground and water supplies as well as change the ways the soil drains.
Can Technology Help With This Problem?
Noting these predictable concerns, it is critical that current water resources be protected and managed to prevent these and other conditions that can result in a smaller supply available for irrigation.
In addition, it is essential to keep developing irrigation system technology that makes the most efficient use of water resources while avoiding other problems like evaporation and salinity.
For water resources to continuously supply irrigation systems for farmers throughout the country, better water resource management and wiser water usage are required.