Ag water in context


I believe it is important to consider the term “consumptive water use” in this context (“How much water goes into your food?” HCN, 4/18/14). This short piece by Sarah Tory provides some insightful information, but perhaps casts a shadow on an industry that constantly must explain and defend itself, often to no avail. Irrigated agriculture and its consumptive use of water is responsible for the creation of wetland habitats that support a diversity of flora and fauna. The sweeping and beautiful green valleys that tourists visit in my home of Gunnison, Colorado, are thanks in part to the ranching community and the system of irrigation ditches put in place to flood hayfields. While irrigation does remove water from a reservoir or river out here in Gunnison County, much of that water eventually returns to the river from these mini-reservoirs; the extension of this return flow is essential to downstream water users who rely on sustained water flow.

John Gioia

Gunnison, Colorado


Sarah Tory replies: Thanks for your letter. In this instance, HCN meant “consumptive water use” to mean diverted water that does not return to its source, but rather is consumed by humans, plants or animals, or lost to evaporation, plant transpiration or some other process.

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