Water Scarcity: Impacts on Western Agriculture: Ernest A. Engelbert
University of California Press | ISBN: 0520053001 | 1985-02 | PDF (OCR) | 484 pages | 3.00 Mb
We are approaching the end of an era in the West. As with most such transitions, it is a period of some confusion and conflict.
The era in question is that of seemingly unlimited western water development. We have begun to realize that there are indeed limits to the water resource base, that we will have to learn to live within them, and that we must come to agreement on priorities for use of water supplies in the future. The subject of this book is whether and how irrigated agriculture in the West will be affected by these new perceptions and changing conditions in water management.
Water is the lifeblood of the West as we know it today. Much of the semiarid western landscape has been altered over the past century by human manipulation of scattered natural water supplies. In many locations irrigated farming has replaced native vegetation and dryland ranching, bringing new productivity to the land and improving local economies. With increasingly uncertain outlook for water supplies in the future, however, new adjustments may have to be made within the agricultural sector. Plans for further expansion of irrigation may have to be cancelled and some land now under irrigation may revert to semiarid conditions, unless accommodations to the increasing constraints on water supply can be made. Both competition for limited resources and changing viewpoints on social utility challenge former assumptions about the "best use" for water.
Depending on which groups of citizens stand to lose or gain from change, the viewpoints they express are varied and sometimes contradictory. Where life is comfortable, people are apt to rationalize and seek technical "fixes" in the attempt to maintain the status quo. Others struggle to achieve a greater share of resources and degree of equity by negotiation or legislation. Change is not easy, but in the period of adjustment in water policy which lies inevitably before us, special-interest clashes and philosophic disagreements must be tempered by hope for reasonable and far-sighted action. Water issues in the West encompass such large areas and affect so many millions of people, that programs and policies must be truly collaborative to be acceptable.
"There are no simple solutions - only intelligent choices."
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