Study: Climate Change To Deplete Water Supply For Arizona Cotton Farmers

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Thursday, July 13, 2017 - 4:48pm
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Cotton crops in Arizona.

A trade almost completely dependent on the climate is bound to be impacted by climate change. And a new study shows agriculture in the Southwest would be severely affected if farmers don’t adapt.

Arizona growers rely on irrigation to water their crops, transported by canals from water sources.

The new study from MIT shows that if nothing changes by 2050, less rainfall will deplete that water supply, putting more water stress on farmers. And crop yields will drop, especially in the production of cotton.

The study compared a recent decade to a modeled decade in the future, taking into account climate-change effects.

Lead author of the study Élodie Blanc says Arizona cotton farmers will have to change how they irrigate to avoid yield losses up to 10 percent.

“It could be adaptation like how you apply the water to your plants, but also how you convey the water," Blanc said. "There’s a lot of waste of water when you convey it in open canals, for example, the water evaporates, so it could be transfer[ed] in pipes.”

Just a few years ago, the number of cotton acres planted in Arizona hit a record low at about a 100,000 but has bounced back to 180,000 acres this year