Dr. Wayne Skaggs made a bold pronouncement at the Stewards of the Future “Water for a Growing World” conference held at North Carolina State in November.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that governments will fall and wars will be fought because of the stresses caused by scarcity of water,” said Skaggs, the Williams Neal Reynolds distinguished professor of biological and agricultural engineering at North Carolina State University. “While the problems are enormous, so is the scale of our opportunities to make positive contributions to what I believe is the most important of the grand challenges facing us for the next two or three generations.”
Skaggs is a respected expert on water management. He has taught and conducted research on drainage and subsurface water management for the past 45 years. He says the global challenges for the needs for drinking water and water for food production for a growing world population must be addressed while the issue of water quality in streams and estuaries can’t be ignored.
“The challenges are immense, but I am optimistic that we are capable of finding solutions. I’m optimistic because I have seen the progress we have made, both at the university and in industry, in finding ways to conserve water and improve water quality,” Skaggs declared at the N.C. State conference.
Farmers are already making gains in preserving precious water resources. In 2009, Georgia began a process to evaluate and plan for water shortages which led the formation of 11 regional water-planning councils. Thanks to the Georgia Farm Bureau, farmer representation was assured on each council.
Donald Chase, a third generation farmer from Macon County, Georgia, serves as chairman of the Upper Flint Water Council. He acknowledges that increasing competition from suburban water users is a challenge for agriculture, but the water planning councils ensure that decisions are made through consensus. The needs of farmers are being heard, Chase stressed.
Georgia farmers are taking steps to conserve water by using variable rate irrigation and monitors. In addition, the work by land grant universities to develop drought tolerant crops is vital, Chase says. Progress is being made.
The key is to collaborate with suburban water users. “We can work together,” Chase says.