The U.S. Department of Agriculture could potentially spend part of its budget for water quality improvements seven to 12 times more cost effectively than it does now. A new WRI analysis shows how, explains why USDA isn’t already doing so, and proposes ways to make a complex policy a reality.
For more than 30 years, the USDA has worked to reduce water pollution by offering farmers throughout the nation financial and technical help to put conservation measures in place. While these efforts have successfully addressed environmental problems at the individual farm level—such as soil erosion—agriculture remains a key source of water pollution.
However, it’s only a small portion of farms that generate the majority of agriculture’s contribution to U.S. water pollution. New research shows that targeting conservation funds to these farms with the most potential to reduce pollution could be up to 12 times more cost effective than the usual practice of disbursing funds widely. And encouragingly, a new USDA program aims to capitalize on a similar targeted approach.
A National Modeling Analysis on Increasing Cost Effectiveness Through Better Targeting of U.S. Farm Conservation Funds
In this second installment of our 3-part series on better targeting of U.S. farm conservation funds, WRI found that combining geographic targeting with benefit-cost principles could potentially yield seven to 12 times...
Providing guidance on how to better target agricultural conservation in the United States, to cost-effectively achieve measurable improvements in water quality.
Regional water concerns are creating significant financial risks due to advanced global commodity trading and energy industries’ high dependence on water.
Our Aqueduct project explores how water risks are already impacting the world’s coal industry, and how risks will change over time.
Years of Living Dangerously, a new Showtime series about climate change, turned its lens on how drought devastated the small town of Plainview, Texas in its first episode. In Plainview—and every other drought-stricken place across the United States—a precipitous drop in rainfall is only part of a much broader story. Underlying water stress is one important piece of that complicated puzzle. When drought strikes where baseline water stress is high, it exacerbates regions’ water woes.
As California lawmakers move forward with potential solutions to the state’s current water shortage, it’s important to consider the full context of underlying reasons for California’s water vulnerability.
Our research shows that about 66 percent of the state’s irrigated agriculture—its biggest water user—faces extremely high levels of baseline water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the available water supply is already being used by farms, homes, businesses, and energy producers. It’s clear that even without drought, the state would be in trouble.
WRI’s Aqueduct project recently evaluated, mapped, and scored stresses on water supplies in the 100 river basins with the highest populations, 100 largest river basins, and 180 nations. We found that 18 river basins—flowing through countries with a collective $US 27 trillion in GDP—face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the water naturally available to agricultural, domestic, and industrial users is withdrawn annually—leaving businesses, farms, and communities vulnerable to scarcity.