AMES, Iowa -- With projected increases of 25 percent and 50 percent in U.S. and world populations, respectively, by 2050, substantial increases in freshwater use for food, fiber, and fuel production, as well as for municipal and residential consumption, are inevitable. Water quality and quantity impacts everyone -- governments, utilities, environmental agencies, farmers, corporations, and consumers -- and increased water use will not come without consequences.

As one of the largest users of water in the United States, agriculture will be impacted significantly by changes in water availability and cost. To evaluate current trends, summarize key vulnerabilities, and identify possible solutions to current and future challenges, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) convened a task force of eight scientists, educators, and resource analysts who have prepared a new CAST Issue Paper -- "Water, People, and the Future: Water Availability for Agriculture in the United States."

Through several case studies, the new CAST publication discusses the diverse demands for water resources using the impacts, regulations, challenges, and policies of four specific areas of the United States -- California, Arizona, Florida, and the High Plains -- with particular focus on the implications for agriculture.

"It is critical that policymakers, water managers, and water users work collaboratively to achieve sustainable water resource management," says Task Force Chair Sharon Megdal, Water Resources Research Center, University of Arizona, Tucson. "Multiple issues require attention -- water quality, environmental water needs, municipal demands for water, water resource availability, agricultural water use -- and no issue can be addressed individually. Supplying future water demand requires continued investments and efforts to enhance water use efficiency. Difficult social and economic transitions and tradeoffs may lie ahead."

John Bonner, CAST executive vice president/CEO, concurs: "A safe, abundant water supply is one of the most crucial challenges facing our world now and into the future. The agricultural community, policymakers, corporations, and consumers need to take this issue seriously and work together to protect the Earth's sustainable water resources through water-conserving technologies and practices. Using science as its foundation, CAST provides this timely resource to assist in understanding the complexities surrounding this serious potential challenge to Earth's resources."

The full text of Water, People, and the Future: Water Availability for Agriculture in the United States (Issue Paper 44, 20 pp.) may be accessed free of charge on the CAST website at www.cast-science.org, along with many of CAST's other scientific publications. The paper hard copy and a broadcast VNR download is also available for a shipping/handling fee. Watch the "Water, People and the Future" Video.

CAST is an international consortium of scientific and professional societies with a 38-year history of providing the science on agricultural issues. It assembles, interprets, and communicates credible science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally to legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.

SOURCE: CAST.