More Water Needed
In the next four decades, Georgia farmers will need 20% more water to produce their crops, says a recent University of Georgia report put together by a team of crop and weather experts. It will be used by the state to help develop a long-term water plan.
Georgia's rainwater recharge is not predictable, says Jim Hook, University of Georgia professor of agricultural and environmental sciences. He says it is easier for Western states to anticipate how much water they'll have since their system is based on reservoir storage and snowpack.
The report says if 2011 is a dry year from spring through fall, Georgia farmers will need 800 million gallons of groundwater per day and 300 million gallons of surface water per day. In 2050, it predicts, they will need 1 billion gallons of groundwater per day and 400 million gallons of surface water per day.
"Georgia's agriculture sector will continue to be a major water user in the state,” Hook says.
USDA economic models were used to predict farmers' cropping choices. University of Georgia models were used to outline crop water needs and climate data.
About 23,000 fields in Georgia currently have irrigation systems, and 15,000 are center-pivot systems. The state's farmers have invested about $3 billion in irrigation equipment and infrastructure. The report says future irrigation growth will occur mostly in southwest Georgia, where most irrigation systems are located. The Floridan Aquifer supplies water to those systems.
"The Floridan is a massive water supply,” Hook says.
The Floridan Aquifer recharges in south Georgia and is not connected to water use in more-populated north Georgia, which depends on surface water supplies.
- Mid-February 2010