Keep North Carolina Farm Water Flowing

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WaterfallNorth Carolina’s greatest resource is its people; however, its greatest natural resource is water. And, there is no better time to address the state’s agricultural water issues than now.

With the assistance of a $100,000 grant from Altria, a diverse group of stakeholders is developing a strategic plan during 2010 designed to protect the state’s agricultural water resources well into the future.

The quality and quantity of water impacts not only how many people can live in any given area, but it also determines where and how we can grow as a state and as an agricultural industry. Without a doubt, water is a limiting factor.

Water issues and their impact on North Carolina agriculture have increased in importance since the drought of 2007.

For example, during 2009, there were 2,765 bills introduced in the General Assembly, with 269 bills related to water in general. Of those, 15 dealt specifically with water resources or water use issues.
Competition for water resources is expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years. We need to take the time to properly protect our water resources and our state’s number one industry—it’s that simple.
 
A strategic water plan will identify specifics about what we can do to reduce water usage, increase our capacity to store water and keep agriculture growing.

With the state’s population increasing like it is, water is going to be a determining factor in where agriculture grows in this state and how fast it grows. If we’re going to preserve the rights of agriculture to use water, we’ve got to work together on a strategic plan and do the right thing for agriculture.

The plan will build upon the 2009 Agricultural Water Use Survey, which received an 86 percent return rate and revealed that agriculture accounts for only 1 percent to 2 percent of water use in the state.

During the late 1990s, aquifers in eastern North Carolina began losing more water than was replenished naturally.

A heightened regulatory environment about water has been the result. Fortunately, agricultural advocates have had a seat at the table of discussion.

Agriculture has continued to recommend voluntary and incentive-based solutions, education and conservation, alternative sources and protecting the rights of private well owners and land owners. There’s a better way to protect our resources without restricting landowner rights.

North Carolina Farm Bureau is working with a variety of industry and related organizations to develop an agricultural water plan that will serve all residents of the state by protecting the industry that produces our food with the help of our water.

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