Texas corn farmers are taking the lead in conservation efforts by investing in new technology and implementing practices that reduce the amount of water used per acre. Today, Texas farmers are producing a bushel of corn with half the amount of water used 30 years ago. Water savings on this scale can significantly extend groundwater supplies and help ensure that corn production continues to help fuel economic growth in rural communities.
Nearly all of the water used for irrigating corn crops in Texas is groundwater. There are 99 groundwater conservation districts governed by locally-elected boards that adopt rules and issue permits for wells. Local regulation of groundwater is one of the most basic principles of water policy in Texas. Because of the vast differences in aquifers, geography, climate, rainfall, population density, and water uses across the state, centralized “one-size-fits-all” regulation of groundwater is not reasonable or realistic. While some politicians are seeking more state control over the operations of groundwater conservation districts, having bureaucrats in Austin imposing statewide rules on groundwater use could be devastating to local and regional economies. The system of local regulation, combined with regional planning, is the only approach the makes sense in a state as large and diverse as Texas.
Reducing water usage through more efficient equipment and practices helps producers by lowering irrigation pumping costs, but there are also significant public benefits. The economic activity generated by irrigation agriculture supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in Texas. Conservation measures maximize the economic benefit from each gallon of water that is pumped, and extend those benefits and jobs for generations to come. The public also benefits from having more groundwater available for non-agricultural uses such as municipal and industrial supplies.
Programs such as those offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service provide farmers with technical expertise and cost sharing to implement conservation measures. These programs are vital to ensuring the continued economic and resource conservation benefits. Funding for these programs, which is an investment in our future, will only continue if they have public and political support from both rural and urban legislators.
Technology never stands still. The next big advancement will come from seed companies and universities that are developing corn varieties that produce higher yields with less water. The first generation of these new drought-tolerant corn hybrids are now available to producers and more companies plan to introduce drought-tolerant corn that will help conserve water resources. Researchers are confident they can develop new seeds that will match current yields with 25 percent less water.
Water conservation goals can be achieved without severe restrictions on irrigation that would damage the economy of Texas High Plains. That’s the message of a public information campaign launched by Texas corn producers. The campaign includes televised public service announcements, a 10 minute video, educational resources, and a website, www.WaterGrowsJobs.org, with the slogan “Water grows our economy; let’s make it last.” Read more
The Texas Corn Producers play an active role in the research and development of water-conserving tools and resources for farmers such as the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation.
TAWC has released an online tool farmers can utilize as an economic decision aid. This web-based tool offers agronomic planning options to maintain profitability and sustainability in irrigated row crop agriculture. With this tool producers have access to: