My View From The Country

Access To Water Is A Lifeblood Issue For The West

It’s only a matter of time before the system – if left unaddressed – will crash.

In the western part of the U.S., water is perhaps the dominant issue going forward. The demands for water, especially for urban uses, are increasing. Meanwhile, in the face of this challenge, water storage and capacity essentially have remained flat. Much like Social Security or the federal deficit, it’s only a matter of time before the system – if left unaddressed – will crash.

Environmental groups have been extremely successful in stopping any water development projects. Of course, increased conservation is vital, and it’s an area where much progress has occurred. Unfortunately, demand continues to increase at a faster rate than conservation, which puts agriculture in the crosshairs of the water debate. The problem for agriculture is that it isn’t only a major user of water, but it’s also the easiest to restrict. 

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The need for additional water in the West is an issue that isn’t going away. In fact, it’s growing in significance, and the issue is coming down to a choice between taking away access to water by agriculture or building more storage capacity. Needless to say, this aligns agriculture and environmentalists squarely against each other in the grand debate.

The tide does appear to be turning, however. While the environmental movement has been able to stop any increase in water storage and capacity for decades, the political winds seem to be changing as the need for additional water enters the critical stage. The race is now to see if these projects can get completed before demand significantly outstrips supply.

The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 1

W. E. (not verified)
on Jun 21, 2014

As farmers and ranchers, we are and must be environmentalists in order to survive the droughts and floods that rack our personal economies. The health and vitality of the soil beneath their hooves is even more vital to the welfare of our animals than their welfare is vital to our livelihoods. That said, all climates are made up of myriad microclimates. If we do not keep the soil covered as nature intended, we--and our livestock--will suffer the consequences. The best way to combat extremes of weather is to mimic nature, one farm or ranch at a time. Burke Teichert's article that you reference here, on starting with attention to the soil is a great place to begin to re-educate ourselves on the importance of grazing to soil health. Carefully planned and controlled mob grazing of cover crops followed by ample rest are a great way to restore over-farmed cropland to health. We have been using this technique on our farm for more than a decade. We intend to add ponds to store more water on our farm as well.

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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