National Geographic

VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers

Menu

Tag archives for irrigation

To Understand Water, Learn the Math

 OK, I’ll admit to being a bit of a geek when it comes to water numbers. I never got all that excited about algebra in school, and college calculus was a real struggle.  But water numbers fascinate me.  If you’ve read any of my earlier blogs it will be apparent that this fascination borders on…

Smarter Irrigation Returns Water to Arizona’s Verde River

What do you get when 21st century “smart” technology hooks up with a 19th century irrigation ditch? The short answer: more water-wise farming and a healthier river. That’s the story of this innovative project on the Verde River in central Arizona, where forward-thinking farmers joined up with the Nature Conservancy and installed a solar-powered “smart”…

Campbell’s Challenge: Growing Lots of Tomatoes in Water-Scarce California

By Peyton Fleming and Brooke Barton DIXON, CA – California and tomatoes are synonymous. Drive along Interstate 80 near Sacramento these days and you’ll see an endless parade of trucks, each filled to the brim with 26 tons of glistening succulent red tomatoes. It’s so many trucks, one after another, that you begin to understand…

Arizona Irrigators Share Water with Desert River

As drought and high water demands deplete more and more rivers in the western United States, it’s easy to assume a future of dryness is the inescapable fate of once vibrant streams. But in the beautiful valley of the Verde River in central Arizona, farmers, residents, and conservationists are working together to restore flows to…

Indian Farmers Cope With Climate Change and Falling Water Tables

By Meha Jain, National Geographic Young Explorer Grantee Climate change is predicted to negatively impact millions of farmers across the globe, with some studies predicting up to a 40% decline in crop yields over the upcoming decades. For my dissertation, I travel to Gujarat, India, to understand how farmers are affected by and are responding…

Small-scale Irrigation Boosts Incomes and Food Security in sub-Saharan Africa

For millions of poor farm families in sub-Saharan Africa, access to water makes the difference between hunger and a full belly, between a well-nourished child and one stunted by malnutrition, and between a productive livelihood and one mired in poverty.  For many, the long dry season is a trying time of one meal a day.…

Making Rain in the American Southwest: How Irrigation Strengthens the Monsoon

Mad science. That’s what I thought when I first read the 1973 Scientific American classic ‘The Control of the Water Cycle’ by Professors Jose Peixoto and Ali Kettani. The two discussed a radical idea, originally proposed by their colleagues Victor Starr and David Anati of MIT. Why not build giant, solar-heated water vapor towers on…

Waste Food, Waste Water — A Message From World Water Week

World Water Week—an annual conference in Stockholm dedicated to discussing the management of global water resources—opened Monday with a message about cleaning your plate.

Food waste, according to experts at the conference, accounts for significant water waste.

A third to a half of all food grown globally either sits untouched on our plates or rots before it even gets there. A new report from the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) states that 40 percent of food purchased in the U.S. is thrown away. And a new documentary called Taste the Waste highlights the problem. Watch the trailer.

That Sinking Feeling About Groundwater in Texas

In case we need another example of the disturbing ramifications of extreme drought for our future water security, we can look to recent news out of northwest Texas. The High Plains Water District, based in Lubbock, recently reported that the 2011-12 drought drove groundwater levels in its sixteen-county service area to drop an average of…

The Power of a Radically Affordable Irrigation Pump

  One of the more transformative technologies ever developed for the world’s poor farmers is a water-lifting device called a treadle pump. It looks and operates much like a Stairmaster exercise machine that you’d find in a gym.  But the dollar-a-day farmers who use these devices are not trying to lose pounds; they’re trying to…

From Texas to India to the Horn of Africa, Concern about Weather, Water, and Crops

  Hardly a week goes by without new reasons to be concerned about the impact of changing precipitation patterns and mounting water stress on food production. This past week, officials in Texas cut off irrigation water to rice farmers downstream of reservoirs depleted by the worst one-year drought in Texas history.   Even with recent rains,…

Farmers and Conservationists Working Together in the Colorado River Basin

    Irrigation of crops – our food – is one of the most important uses of the water from rivers in the Colorado River Basin.  From the hay and alfalfa grown for cattle high in the headwaters of Wyoming and Colorado, to sprawling lettuce fields in Southern Arizona, agriculture uses more than 80 percent…

Texas Water District Acts to Slow Depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer

A group of farmers in northwest Texas began 2012 under circumstances their forbearers could scarcely imagine: they faced a limit on the amount of groundwater they could pump from their own wells on their own property. The new rule issued by the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District, based in Lubbock, declares that water pumped…

Australia’s Grand Water Experiment – Take Two

  Australia’s iconic Murray River, beloved for the red gum forests that line its banks and the prized Murray cod that ply its waters, is suffering big time from the high demands placed upon its finite flows and the decade of dryness that presaged the climate disruption to come. Today, Australia’s Murray Darling Basin Authority…

A Plea for the Water in All We Use, Make and Eat

“We’re using tomorrow’s water to meet today’s food demand,” warned Sandra Postel, National Geographic Freshwater Fellow, helping to provoke a meaningful discussion on water as it relates to food at the Aspen Environmental Forum. Agriculture was a central theme as it consumes a disproportionate share of global water resources. Jon Foley from the University of…