Skip to comments.Drip Irrigation May Not Save Water, Analysis Finds
Posted on 11/24/2008 1:03:41 AM PST by neverdem
Dan Porges/Peter Arnold
In an effort to make irrigation more efficient to obtain more crop per drop farmers have adopted alternatives to flooding and other conventional methods. Among these is drip irrigation, shown above, in which water flows only to the roots. Drip systems are costly, but they save much water.
Or do they? A hydrologic and economic analysis of the Upper Rio Grande basin in the Southwest, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that subsidies and other policies that encourage conservation methods like drip irrigation can actually increase water consumption.
The take-home message is that youd better take a pretty careful look at drip irrigation before you spend a bunch of money on subsidizing it, said Frank A. Ward, a resource economist at New Mexico State University and author of the study with Manuel Pulido-Velázquez of the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain.
With flood irrigation, much of the water is not used by the plants and seeps back to the source, an aquifer or a river. Drip irrigation draws less water, but almost all of it is taken up by the plants, so very little is returned. Those aquifers are not going to get recharged, Dr. Ward said.
Drip irrigation also generally increases crop yields, which encourages farmers to expand acreage and request the right to take even more water, thus depleting even more of it. The indirect effect is very possibly to undermine policy attempts to reduce water consumption, Dr. Ward said.
Policymakers, he added, must balance the need for more food and for farmers to make a living with water needs.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
The pdf link to the article is OPEN ACCESS.
The law of unintended consequences, aka human nature, strikes again.
Water rights and water usage will be the next big battle of the west, later the US, and then the world.
Neither does my lameass shower head. Takes twice as long toshower and I can’t find one without stupid water saver device.
I took a drill to my showerhead! Frikken commies!!
Video captures massive meteor as it lights up sky in Canada Link the source.
FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.
“Drip irrigation also generally increases crop yields, which encourages farmers to expand acreage and request the right to take even more water, thus depleting even more of it.”
What they heck does that mean???
Basically they produce more food with less water. Which would seem to be the goal, no? But that’s bad because when they succeed they want to do more of it and that’s bad...
The world is upside down.
I’m not quite sure of the line of reasoning here. Apparently it doesn’t “save” water because not as much water is returned to the acquifer. It would seem that if less water is needed, then less water will be taken out of the acquifer in the first place. Relative to the acquifer taking out less should result in less loss.
However, the crux of the concern seems to be that the farmers will ask for MORE water (note that this results in MORE agricultural products) and this seems to be the primary objection.
Am I missing something?
If you are even slightly mechanically inclined, you can simply remove the flow limiter. They are generally made up from a rubber O ring and a piece of circular plastic with small holes that the ring goes inside of. The higher the pressure the more the rubber O ring is pushed to block the flow through the holes in the plastic disc keeping the overall flow more or less the same with different pressures.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of removing it, just drill a good sized hole through it...
"Drip irrigation draws less water, but almost all of it is taken up by the plants, so very little is returned." Duh.
It takes an “academic” to reason success is failure. The idiot reasoning applied to car gas mileage would be that if cars got 60 MPG they would be cheaper to operate and therefore people would drive more using more fuel... Never mind that the goal of getting higher efficiency was successful, or that people have to spend less for transportation improving their standard of living, it is bad because people drive more... The real goal wasn't higher efficiency or a higher standard of living. The real goal was less driving and in the case, less farming.
No, I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head....
Just proving the goal wasn’t higher efficiency or a better standard of living. The real goal was less farming.
What they heck does that mean???
They're growing more vegetables. Plant cells don't grow in a vacuum, IIRC.
It is more efficient, in other words. It does not seep back into the ground or run off (aquifer recharge areas tend to be uphill from the point in the wellbore where the water is removed). As for recharging the aquifer, only if the aquifer recharge area is directly below the plants, and then one would just be taking the water out and letting it soak back in--likely increasing any contamination from surface sources.
Drip irrigation also generally increases crop yields, (IOW, It works) which encourages farmers to expand acreage and request the right to take even more water, (because it works) thus depleting even more of it.
Thus using more water more efficiently to produce more food. (but depleting the aquifer less to do so per unit of biomass in the first place). Duh.
NO one has yet mentioned the government’s foray into to toilet design. The premise is wrong to start with IMHO. Would someone explain to me how you waste water. Humans consume it for life, but we exhale vapor and excuse the expression, urinate the remains which goes back where it came from. Water can neither be created nor destroyed. No one but God himself knows the limit on the supply, if indeed there is a limit, and I suggest there will be sufficient for as long as earth remains habitable for man.
Government begins with the same letter as God, but any similarity after that, is purely coincidental.
Increasing crop yields with less water is the goal, correct?
Well they admit that it does that - but it is bad because when the farmer succeeds, the farmer wants to do more of the same, well ya... But that is bad...
The genius researcher can't figure out that if the only water used is the water the plant needs the farmer doesn't need to pull as much from the aquifer in the first place to "replenish" it with. The measure ought to be how much food does the farmer produce with how much water and if that improved efficiency makes up for the added cost. Not all this circular reasoning that if the farmer succeeds at producing more economically he'll use more water...
As you say, there is no shortage of water.
Only cheap water.
I guess in NYT land, creating successful technologies that farmers can and want to use to increase their productivity and production is bad thing.
Or more food = bad...?
When it comes to showerheads, the best solution is to Drill, Baby! Drill!
I just did some bathroom renovations. The plumber told me that I would probably not be happy with the water flow in the showerheads, and that the particular showerheads I bought had a “foreign” configuration that could be restored by removing a little cartridge. He even told me where it was. But he cautioned me to leave that cartridge in place until the inspection was complete.
This is interesting since a number of States in Australia have banned regular sprinklers and watering systems for home gardens and only allowed drip sprinklers.
You're thinking about this all wrong. You are assuming that the function of the farmer is to produce food and sell it at a profit to people who want and need food. This is a simplistic approach to the problem.
The function of the farmer is to occupy those big square states in the middle of the country and run pleasant farms that can be observed from airplane windows or (God forbid) from the Interstate. His job is to stand there in front of the field, preferably in a pair of worn denim coveralls with one of the straps unbuttoned, holding a pitchfork and looking picturesque. If he can get the missus to stand next to him, a la "American Gothic", that's a plus.
So the amount of water necessary is just the amount that it takes to make the farm look pretty. Anything more is a waste.
People reluctant to get a PhD and enter academia for fear of not being able to get research grant money should look no farther than this study to realize the bar is set very, very low for getting grant money.
You didn’t miss anything here my friend. And there is nothing wrong with YOUR reasoning. You have just read the words of an enviro moron who is pissed not with the saving of water, but with the growth of an efficient industry providing a country with product for less money.
It is called efficiencey and it is what private industry does best. If it was gubmint run, it would use 10 times as much water and produce half as much porduct. this writer is a total moron.
it would seem that researchers that the times prefers to publish have a habit of ignoring the sun’s role in earth’s processes...evaporation...global warming...wonder if there are more...
The article isn't about water, but the stupidity at the NYTimes.
Guess they couldn't trust people to follow watering guidelines.
My guess is drip irrigation would tend to evaporate too quickly.
The problem here is not drip irrigation, which works, saves money, and increases yields. Which, I might add, might be augmented in the future by plowing packing peanuts into the soil, which captures and holds rainwater and improves the overall soil moisture and fertility.
The problem is aquifer replenishment. Just using wasteful traditional flooding irrigation won’t help that problem, only slow down the rate of loss a little.
What it needs is literally replenishment, and that can only be provided by precipitation from nature. And since normal levels of rain aren’t enough, then the alternative is harvesting air humidity.
On the Hawaiian island of Kauai is the rainiest place on Earth. This is because it has an extinct volcano, and one of the walls of the volcano collapsed, making a “catcher’s mitt” in just the right direction to capture the predominant humid air current. It is an exceptionally beautiful place, where it rains almost constantly.
While that is an ideal situation, there is no reason much less efficient, but still practical, man made humidity harvesting can’t be done, even far inland.
Using the desert southwest as an example, once a year for about a month in summer, the “monsoon” of humid air comes North from Mexico, bringing with it some rain, but mostly just high humidity.
A single, South facing mountain could be to some extent hollowed out into what amounts to a giant water tank. Above it, winding caves could be mined, with entrances high up on the South and exits low down on the North, where there are large fans to pull air into the tunnels.
The tunnels would be filled with cooling coils to make the humid air condense into water droplets that would flow into the giant storage tank below.
The system would be powered by a small solar farm, that would store energy year ‘round to power the fans and cooling coils for the monsoon month.
While it wouldn’t produce enough water for agriculture, it would strongly reduce the amount needed to be taken from the aquifer, helping it to replenish itself naturally.
“The first method has been used by farmers for generations. It’s known as rain.”
I love my home drip irrigation system. It covers my food crops, herb seasoning crops, my fragrant plant area and a few flowers.
Is it wrong to love it even more now that I know it’s politically incorrect!?!?!
Reducing the amount of treated drinking water that it takes for three hundred million people to flush their toilets and at the same time reducing the same amount of sewage water that has to be treated and cleaned is a great benefit.
Using up to seven gallons to flush a toilet just isn’t necessary, the mistake the government made was imposing the standard before the industry was up to the task but now those problems have been solved so the issue is over.
The bathroom did not reach final perfection in 1930.
I don't think so. I could be wrong. I didn't read the pdf, but my impression was that the goal was to actually, absolutely, not relatively, use less water.
No, you got it right; what doesn’t seem to be covered is that by switching from flooding to drip irrigation, the air above the field will become more arid.
What if a deeper analysis of this effect shows that rainfall would be reduced as a result and replenishment even further reduced along with adding to “global warming”?
Cool. Will try. TX.
A hydrologic and economic analysis of the Upper Rio Grande basin in the Southwest, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that subsidies and other policies that encourage conservation methods like drip irrigation can actually increase water consumption.Thanks neverdem.
This has all the allure of spin-cast fishing. Drip irrigation uses less water per plant at a lower unit cost to the customer for the produce. So the farmer makes more money, so more farmers stay in business and people buy and eat more healthy fresh food. This guy is arguing that because the plant takes up ALL of what is allocated, it constitutes an undesirable subsidy because farmers use more total water, as if people wouldn't buy their strawberries from elsewhere. He's effectively saying that the problem is that it is working. He is apparently not including the amount of water it would take to wet the soil on the way back to the aquifer as a deleterious side effect.
His reason? It's obvious. He wants to see that marginal water used elsewhere. Where would that be? Let's see, justify it for "the environmint" because housing uses less water than farming. Then develop former farms bought for a song because they were pushed out of business.
Oh, but that would be EEEVIL!
Methinks this is another pitch to encourage farming abroad at the expense of Americans with the desire of making money in real estate racketeering. Allocating grant money for such "studies" is popular these days among investors, particularly to find ways to justify unnaturally high flows in streams in late season (Klamath Dam releases anyone?). There are gobs of bureaucrat "scientists" with financial interest in such a story who will note immediately its prestigious publication. Hence ii highly placed in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Take the water, kill the farm, and grab the dirt. In that order.
As to irrigation, I'm a lot more concerned about salting up dirt than I am about using too much water.
Thanks! That was my take on it as well, but I wanted an expert to weigh in, y’know, because I’ve been on a diet lately. ;’)
Now that I have said that, let me say that if the government would remove most of the restrictions on Nuclear power plants, we could build a series of small ones, such as are used in Naval vessels, anchor them securely along the coast and use them for water desalinization. If the greenies really had mankind's and the planet's welfare at heart they would be looking at things like that. With Nuke desalinization we would never need to worry about water and drought again.
The point is the left doesn't really care about the planet or the people on it, except for how they can control them. Restrictions are placed on us to control us and for no other reason. We need to start pushing back, hard.
One for you.
They should try “Brawndo” - it’s got Electrolytes. It’s what plants crave.
“Neither does my lameass shower head. Takes twice as long toshower and I cant find one without stupid water saver device.”
Check into the Commando 450.
Using up to seven gallons to flush a toilet just isnt necessary,
Taking 15 minutes in the shower isn't necessary, either. Do you have a proposal to address this issue?
This is just loony, circular logic. They note that drip irrigation fails to recharge the source while FAILING to note that it draws less water from the source to begin with! The article lost me right here. If the author or the study can't handle this simple concept, I have no faith in the rest of the work.
This is the kind of backward thinking that makes people want to spend money so they can get more back from their 5% reward. Yes, but you spent the 95%, idiot.
You're right DB about the increased yeilds with less water - who would object to that?
But what do you think about the "water not used by plants seeps" back into the aquifer? I mean, if it's not taken out in the first place, purified, transported etc., what's the problem with excess water not "seeping" back in? This is soooooo New York Times - they've probably never been closer to a farm than flying over one...
I imagine this author would have been ecstatic with an irrigation system that returns 100% of the drawn water back to the aquifer, with the hope that the water wishes the plants good fortune as it runs by the roots in nearby piping.
If you are having problems with low flow toilets I strongly recommend Toto brand toilets. We built a new home a couple of years ago and used Toto toilets throughout and have had zero problems whatsoever. In our old house we had nothing but problems with poor flushing low flow toilets. Constantly clogged... In that house we had to have a plunger next to each toilet at all times. I don’t even know where all the plungers are in the new house... They don’t get used anymore...