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Drip Irrigation May Not Save Water, Analysis Finds
NY Times ^ | November 18, 2008 | HENRY FOUNTAIN

Posted on 11/24/2008 1:03:41 AM PST by neverdem


Dan Porges/Peter Arnold

Observatory

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 you’d 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 ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events; Technical
KEYWORDS: agriculture; dripirrigation; hydrology; science; water
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Water conservation in irrigation can increase water use

The pdf link to the article is OPEN ACCESS.

The law of unintended consequences, aka human nature, strikes again.

1 posted on 11/24/2008 1:03:42 AM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Water rights and water usage will be the next big battle of the west, later the US, and then the world.


2 posted on 11/24/2008 1:09:44 AM PST by taxcontrol
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To: neverdem

Neither does my lameass shower head. Takes twice as long toshower and I can’t find one without stupid water saver device.


3 posted on 11/24/2008 1:27:18 AM PST by screaminsunshine
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To: screaminsunshine

I took a drill to my showerhead! Frikken commies!!


4 posted on 11/24/2008 1:29:36 AM PST by 21twelve
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To: El Gato; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Robert A. Cook, PE; lepton; LadyDoc; jb6; tiamat; PGalt; Dianna; ...
Melatonin may save eyesight in inflammatory disease

Video captures massive meteor as it lights up sky in Canada Link the source.

Study Shows Green Tea Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.

5 posted on 11/24/2008 1:30:46 AM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
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To: neverdem

“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.


6 posted on 11/24/2008 1:31:01 AM PST by DB
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To: neverdem

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?


7 posted on 11/24/2008 1:37:07 AM PST by the_Watchman
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To: screaminsunshine

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...


8 posted on 11/24/2008 1:38:21 AM PST by DB
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To: DB
Intellect has never been a requirement for publication in The Slimes.

"Drip irrigation draws less water, but almost all of it is taken up by the plants, so very little is returned." Duh.

yitbos

9 posted on 11/24/2008 1:41:04 AM PST by bruinbirdman ("Those who control language control minds.")
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To: the_Watchman
No, I don't think you are missing anything.

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.

10 posted on 11/24/2008 1:45:48 AM PST by DB
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To: the_Watchman

No, I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head....


11 posted on 11/24/2008 1:46:12 AM PST by dirtbiker (Joe Biden has an IQ of 146 and no idea how to use it....)
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To: the_Watchman
The couldn't have just admitted that, "Drip irrigation draws less water, but almost all of it is taken up by the plants, so very little is returned wasted."yitbos
12 posted on 11/24/2008 1:46:36 AM PST by bruinbirdman ("Those who control language control minds.")
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To: bruinbirdman

Just proving the goal wasn’t higher efficiency or a better standard of living. The real goal was less farming.


13 posted on 11/24/2008 1:47:37 AM PST by DB
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To: DB
“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???

They're growing more vegetables. Plant cells don't grow in a vacuum, IIRC.

14 posted on 11/24/2008 1:48:21 AM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
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To: neverdem
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.

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.

15 posted on 11/24/2008 1:51:40 AM PST by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly.)
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To: neverdem

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.


16 posted on 11/24/2008 2:01:28 AM PST by wita
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To: neverdem
That wasn't my point.

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...

17 posted on 11/24/2008 2:05:28 AM PST by DB
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To: wita

As you say, there is no shortage of water.

Only cheap water.


18 posted on 11/24/2008 2:06:36 AM PST by DB
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To: neverdem

I guess in NYT land, creating successful technologies that farmers can and want to use to increase their productivity and production is bad thing.


19 posted on 11/24/2008 2:07:48 AM PST by TheWasteLand
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To: neverdem
Drip irrigation also generally increases crop yields....

Or more food = bad...?

20 posted on 11/24/2008 2:25:52 AM PST by x_plus_one (Muhammed and Allah = 2 memes destined for the ashheap of history.....)
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To: DB
It sure sounds like drip irrigation is efficient in producing more crops with same quantity of water. What these ninnies don't seem to understand is that we can not destroy water, we can only move it around and change its state temporarily. When the water is within the food crop, it get transported to another place, it evaporates or is drained into that new area. If it evaporates it reappears as rainfall somewhere else, it is not shipped to another planet.
21 posted on 11/24/2008 3:16:43 AM PST by dusttoyou (First they steal our savings, then our liberty)
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To: 21twelve

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.


22 posted on 11/24/2008 3:18:47 AM PST by gridlock (Bill Clinton will be offered the job as Obama's Secretary of State.)
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To: neverdem

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.


23 posted on 11/24/2008 3:22:37 AM PST by Aussiebabe
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To: the_Watchman
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)

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.

24 posted on 11/24/2008 3:26:20 AM PST by gridlock (Bill Clinton will be offered the job as Obama's Secretary of State.)
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To: neverdem
So, the author says if 5 gallons are used to flood 1 square meter, the plant will take up one pint and the remainder returned to an aquifer (he ignores evaporation) but if only one pint is used in drip irrigation, that one pint is taken up by the plant with nothing returned to the aquifer.

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.

25 posted on 11/24/2008 3:43:02 AM PST by fso301
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To: the_Watchman

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.


26 posted on 11/24/2008 3:51:14 AM PST by HiramQuick (work harder ... welfare recipients depend on you!)
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To: fso301

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...


27 posted on 11/24/2008 4:04:44 AM PST by stefanbatory (Do you want a President or a King?)
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To: DB
Basically they produce more food with less water.

The article isn't about water, but the stupidity at the NYTimes.

28 posted on 11/24/2008 5:00:25 AM PST by Moonman62 (The issue of whether cheap labor makes America great should have been settled by the Civil War.)
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To: neverdem
When I was in Arizona back in the 70s, a truck would come around every week or so and flood your yard. (do they still do this?)

Guess they couldn't trust people to follow watering guidelines.

My guess is drip irrigation would tend to evaporate too quickly.

29 posted on 11/24/2008 5:21:14 AM PST by wolfcreek (I see miles and miles of Texas....let's keep it that way.)
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To: neverdem

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.


30 posted on 11/24/2008 5:22:02 AM PST by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: neverdem

“The first method has been used by farmers for generations. It’s known as rain.”


31 posted on 11/24/2008 5:31:03 AM PST by ClaudiusI
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To: neverdem
Now hear this!! now hear this!!....water can not be “üsed” or destroyed...water will evaporate and rise in the sky, until it condensates and eventually to return to earth as rain....
32 posted on 11/24/2008 5:39:34 AM PST by thinking
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To: neverdem

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!?!?!

~grin~


33 posted on 11/24/2008 5:40:27 AM PST by Wneighbor
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To: the_Watchman
I’m not quite sure of the line of reasoning here.

Me too.

34 posted on 11/24/2008 7:12:31 AM PST by sionnsar (Iran Azadi|5yst3m 0wn3d-it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY)|http://trad-anglican.faithweb.com/|RCongressIn2Years)
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To: wita

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.


35 posted on 11/24/2008 8:23:26 AM PST by ansel12 ( When a conservative pundit mocks Wasilla, he's mocking conservatism as it's actually lived.)
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To: DB
Increasing crop yields with less water is the goal, correct?

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.

36 posted on 11/24/2008 9:34:24 AM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
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To: the_Watchman

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”?


37 posted on 11/24/2008 10:01:05 AM PST by Old Professer (The critic writes with rapier pen, dips it twice, then writes again.)
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To: DB

Cool. Will try. TX.


38 posted on 11/24/2008 1:58:26 PM PST by screaminsunshine
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To: Carry_Okie; AdmSmith; Berosus; Convert from ECUSA; dervish; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Fred Nerks; ...
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.

Whoops, sorry Carry_Okie, thought this topic would be of interest to you, but plastered your name into the other one in error (as well as this one).
39 posted on 11/24/2008 2:20:16 PM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_______Profile finally updated Saturday, October 11, 2008 !!!)
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To: SunkenCiv; neverdem
Thx for the ping(s). :-)

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.

40 posted on 11/24/2008 3:13:47 PM PST by Carry_Okie (If Barack Obama is Vladamir Lenin, Bill Ayers is Leon Trotsky.)
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To: Carry_Okie

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. ;’)


41 posted on 11/24/2008 3:42:40 PM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_______Profile finally updated Saturday, October 11, 2008 !!!)
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To: neverdem
The guy that wrote this must be a liberal, his reasoning sucks.

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.

42 posted on 11/24/2008 3:55:54 PM PST by calex59
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To: Seadog Bytes

One for you.


43 posted on 11/24/2008 6:23:42 PM PST by Carry_Okie (If Barack Obama is Vladamir Lenin, Bill Ayers is Leon Trotsky.)
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To: neverdem

They should try “Brawndo” - it’s got Electrolytes. It’s what plants crave.


44 posted on 11/24/2008 6:24:47 PM PST by dfwgator (I hate Illinois Marxists)
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To: screaminsunshine; Cagey; Mr. Brightside; MotleyGirl70

“Neither does my lameass shower head. Takes twice as long toshower and I can’t find one without stupid water saver device.”

Check into the Commando 450.


45 posted on 11/24/2008 6:29:32 PM PST by Rebelbase
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To: ansel12
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.
It may have had a benefit, for those paying for the operation and maintenance of their sewage system. Maybe not. If it made more sense for them to buy an "old-tech" toilet using more gpf, then so be it. If it became prohibitively expensive to provide the required amount of properly treated water to supply all those older toilets, people would voluntarily opt for the newer models. This was never a government issue.

Using up to seven gallons to flush a toilet just isn’t necessary,
Taking 15 minutes in the shower isn't necessary, either. Do you have a proposal to address this issue?

46 posted on 11/24/2008 7:03:17 PM PST by BMiles2112
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To: neverdem
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.

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.

47 posted on 11/24/2008 7:30:56 PM PST by Freedom_Is_Not_Free
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To: DB
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.

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...

48 posted on 11/24/2008 7:40:26 PM PST by GOPJ (The CITI/ financial dike has sprung 500 leaks - we need an engineer - not more fingers.)
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To: Freedom_Is_Not_Free

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.


49 posted on 11/24/2008 7:45:16 PM PST by BMiles2112
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To: wita

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...


50 posted on 11/24/2008 7:52:58 PM PST by DB
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