As Texas continues to battle drought, a new approach to water conservation will help farmers and protect critical supplies.
Drought has created a problem for water supply in the US state of Texas. Without rainfall, aquifer and reservoir levels cannot be replenished as quickly as they are depleted.
At the peak of the summer, 95% of Texas was officially in drought, compared with 64% of the US as a whole.
With the state suffering drought conditions, several non-profit organisations are stepping up to help conserve water by paying farmers to leave the water in the ground and consume more sustainably. Known as water trades, the transactions help keep water in nature and prop up the state’s agricultural economy.
“In Texas, drought and extreme heat affects crops and crop productivity. You potentially have less access to water, but there also isn’t time to recover from big heat waves.”
Texas is in the early stages of establishing these water transactions between organisations and farmers. The voluntary programme will see a mix of different schemes and approaches based on the individual farms, including encouraging more efficient irrigation and paying farmers to not use water for irrigation during times of drought.
Getting reimbursed for using less, or in some cases no water, could be beneficial to farmers with failed crops.
“In Texas, drought and extreme heat affects crops and crop productivity,” said Sarah Kapnick, chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “You potentially have less access to water, but there also isn’t time to recover from big heat waves.”
As the largest consumer of water in Texas, the agriculture sector is also the source for the majority of the agreements. But the benefits of these programs extend beyond the ranchers and farmers in Texas.
The water saved through the various conservation efforts flows through streams, maintaining ecosystems pressured by drought. The groundwater that stays in aquifers remains on hand as a resource during future droughts.