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Report: Toward Water-Resilient Agriculture in Arizona

Gary Paul Nabhan, Brian D. Richter, Erin C. Riordan, and Catherine Tornbom

Future Scenarios Addressing Water Scarcity in the Lower Colorado River Basin

The University of Arizona Southwest Center has released a report intended to help Arizona farmers and ranchers who depend on irrigation allocations from the Lower Colorado River deal with the state’s worst water crisis in history. The development of the report— commissioned by the Babbitt Center– was written and produced by the University of Arizona, Sustainable Waters and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It elicited input from many kinds of stakeholders, including farmers, ranchers, Indian water law experts, farmland preservation advocates, and agricultural policy experts.  

This report highlights three possible scenarios to restore health, productivity, and resilience to Arizona’s lands, waters, and communities that can be implemented at the scale of individual field, entire farmscape, rural community, watershed, or entire Colorado River basin. This report also outlines sources of technical, legal, and financial support available to help farmers adapt to an evolving climate and water availability in Arizona.

In general, farmers will require assistance in transitioning to reduce the costs of water and energy inputs to crop production, but will also need assistance in marketing their harvests or the value-added products derived from them to increase their income per acre. Fortunately, in December 2022 the University of Arizona and three non-profits received a $4.7 million grant from the USDA that will help farmers throughout the state to more rapidly implement climate-friendly solutions that can reduce their input costs, while helping promote value-added products in markets to enhance their income. Additionally, University of Arizona President Robbins announced the formation of the Presidential Advisory Commission on the Future of Agriculture and Food Production in a Drying Climate, charged with suggesting actions to bring the varied and many resources of the university to bear on keeping agriculture productive even in the face of less water.

Read and Download the Full Report

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