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Climate change to deplete water basins used for irrigation in US

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Posted: 12 Jul 2017 08:04 AM PDT  read full ScienceDaily article here

Certain hotspots in the country will experience severe reductions in crop yields by 2050, due to climate change’s impact on irrigation, a new study by climate scientists, economists, and agriculture experts finds. The most adversely affected region, according to the researchers, will be the Southwest. Already a water-stressed part of the country, this region is projected to experience reduced precipitation by midcentury. Less rainfall to the area will mean reduced runoff into water basins that feed irrigated fields.

Production of cotton, the primary irrigated crop in the Southwest and in southern Arizona in particular, will drop to less than 10 percent of the crop yield under optimal irrigation conditions, the study projects. Similarly, maize grown in Utah, now only yielding 40 percent of the optimal expected yield, will decrease to 10 percent with further climate-driven water deficits.

In the Northwest, water shortages to the Great Basin region will lead to large reductions in irrigated forage, such as hay, grasses, and other crops grown to feed livestock. In contrast, the researchers predict a decrease in water stress for irrigation in the southern Plains, which will lead to greater yields of irrigated sorghum and soybean.

Elodie Blanc, Justin Caron, Charles Fant, Erwan Monier. Is Current Irrigation Sustainable in the United States? An Integrated Assessment of Climate Change Impact on Water Resources and Irrigated Crop Yields. Earth’s Future, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/2016EF000473

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