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State of Southwestern Foodsheds

A Special Publication of Sabores Sin Fronteras of the Southwest Center with Edible Communities
Edited by: Gary Paul Nabhan and Regina Fitzsimmons

While this publication began as an imaginative exercise to chart the successes and joys of sustainable food, farming and ranching initiatives in the Southwest that began over the last decade, it now appears that such innovations may no longer be a luxury, but a necessity.

As this special “Edible” edition on the State of Southwestern Foodsheds goes to press, we have been stunned by the news coverage of a National Academy of Sciences publication released in mid-December of 2010 arguing that “the capacity for water to support cities, industry, agriculture, and ecosystems in the US West is near its limit.” A special feature of the Academy’s Proceedings, which was authored by 15 distinguished scientists, suggests that the per capita amount of water currently needed to feed the populations of the metropolitan areas of the Southwest are among the highest  “water/ food footprints” of any place in the world, and may clearly be unsustainable in the face of dwindling reservoirs and aquifers, even without factoring in impending climate change.

If the Southwest’s human population were to ever double, and we were to use the region’s land and water to try to feed those many mouths, virtually every stream and river in the region would be sucked dry.

The scientists suggest that if we are to weather climate change and other impending challenges to our food security, farmers, ranchers and urban consumers in the Southwest should reduce our use of water from rivers and streams to a target level of 60 percent of what it is today.

Download the PDF to read the full publication.

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