How Brand Journalists Cover A Sensitive Topic

Let’s Back Up a Minute.

To be sure, droughts are as much a part of the climatic routine as summer and winter are to the seasons' cycle. But, whether you believe increased greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere is or is not interrupting the delicate climatic balance on the planet, two things are for certain: 1) Groundwater takes tens of thousands of years to replenish. No record-breaking rainfall, were we to get it, and the tiny percentage of irrigation water that would trickle down to the great depths below would make a difference and replenish aquifers for the droughts faced by our great, great, great, great, great, great, etc. grandchildren. 2) We humans are still making more humans who are, or will be, competing for limited natural resources, the most precious of which is, arguably, water. So, what do we do? For starters, we become more efficient. As declared in the slogan of Israeli-based irrigation company Netafim (more on them in future articles on myFarmLife.com), we can “make more with less.” Certainly, this goes for those involved in agriculture, but it’s critical that the rest of us do our part, too. Americans at 382 liters per person and Canadians at 343 liters use more water than people in most other countries. (Compare that to 135 liters per person in Israel, but also understand methods to determine usage may vary, making water use comparison difficult.) To decrease usage in residential, industrial and municipal situations, we’re not just talking watering of the lawn less and taking shorter showers. For instance, the EPA estimates that we Americans waste as much as 1 trillion gallons of water annually via leaky pipes, runny toilets and the like. North of the border, Environment Canada, a government agency, estimates that 30% of the total water entering supply-line systems is lost to leaking pipes.

Thirsty Farming

But back to farming, which has taken a lot of heat in various quarters for its water usage—some deserved, some not so much. While it’s not as much of an issue in Canada, where agriculture uses only about 10% of the national fresh water supply (such a low figure is due in part to climatic conditions and because the country’s arable land is a relatively low percentage of its total), it’s a hot-button topic here in the U.S., where agriculture accounts for an average of 80% of water usage. It’s funny in a way, but many "tree huggers" have become very selective in those woody plants they embrace—sequoia, yes; walnut, no. Some, have even become—let’s call them—"broccoli kickers." Now, there’s some basis for that, because both crops consume what seems like a lot of water: one walnut requires an average of five gallons, while one head of broccoli requires 5.4 gallons. The difference being broccoli farmers can more easily choose not to grow in a dry year. Conversely, many producers continue to deliver water to nut orchards, in large part because without moisture trees die—an expensive proposition, when you consider the first harvest doesn’t occur until as late as 10 years after planting.

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