Stuff I wrote elsewhere: It’s the farms

Hay bales at Valle do Oro in Bernalillo County's south valley, June 2014

Hay bales at Valle do Oro in Bernalillo County’s south valley, June 2014

Readers of this blog tend to be self-selected group (I’m looking at you, water nerds), so the fact the bulk of the West’s water goes to farming is not news to you. But my hunch (without any data) is that this is not well understood among the broader public. Which is who I write for at the newspaper. Hence this:

Farms in the Rio Grande Valley of central New Mexico consume nearly six times as much water as the region’s cities, according to a new analysis by a team led by a University of New Mexico professor.

And bosque plants, dipping their roots into groundwater and exhaling the water through their leaves, consume nearly three times as much water as cities, according to the study.

There are uncertainties in the numbers. Other experts say the analysis may overstate farm consumption, that agriculture consumes only four times as much water as cities, not six times, and that the bosque may consume as much as five times as much water as cities, rather than three.

But that should not obscure two central issues pointedly revealed by the new analysis.

First, farms and the bosque each use a lot more water than cities, and any water policy discussion in this water-scarce region must take that reality into account. Second, the uncertainty in the numbers should be troubling. The fact that we don’t have a clearer picture of our consumption of this scarce and important resource is a problem.