While climate change has shifted humanity’s concern towards a warming planet, many have overlooked the substantial impact groundwater depletion has on the environment and our food systems. Aquifers currently supply 90 percent of the nation’s groundwater, and their impact on agriculture cannot be overstated.
Industrial agricultural practices, such as traditional irrigation, significantly reduce the amount of groundwater available to the nation. At the current rate of reduction, aquifers will soon be unable to support industrial-scale agriculture, significantly reducing crop yields and threatening America’s place as an agricultural superpower.
Agriculture is deeply intertwined with groundwater, with many crops heavily reliant on consistent and adequate water supply. Historically, intensive irrigation practices and the excessive use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides have led to groundwater contamination and depletion.
This unsustainable approach not only threatens ecosystems but also compromises the health of communities dependent on groundwater for drinking water and daily needs.
However, the paradigm is shifting towards climate-friendly sustainable agriculture, utilizing practices that not only address environmental concerns, but also have a profound impact on safeguarding groundwater resources. Particularly, many advances have been made in the area of sustainable rice cultivation.
About 34 percent to 43 percent of the world’s total irrigation water is used for rice production. By employing climate-smart irrigation practices such as alternate wetting and drying (AWD) or furrow-irrigated rice (FIR), farmers are able to both save water usage and recharge groundwater aquifers.
The adoption of AWD in the Philippines has already led to substantial water savings while maintaining or increasing rice yields, showcasing the potential of climate-friendly rice cultivation. With this technique, up to 38 percent of irrigation water can be saved. Also, this technique has been shown to reduce methane emissions by up to 90%.
Additionally, by using sustainable farming practices such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and reduced fertilizer usage, farmers are able to improve soil health, prevent erosion, and over time reduce the need for synthetic inputs, consequently lowering the risk of groundwater contamination.
The symbiotic relationship between climate-friendly sustainable agriculture and groundwater preservation showcases a promising path forward for a world grappling with climate change and resource depletion.
By adopting practices that prioritize ecosystem health, water efficiency, and reduced chemical usage, we not only ensure the resilience of agricultural systems, but also safeguard the precious groundwater resources that sustain life as we know it.
The adoption of climate-friendly rice cultivation techniques offers a glimmer of hope, not only for ensuring sustainable food production, but also for preserving precious groundwater reserves.