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Tighter water supplies spur technological growth

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Amarillo, TX - Water is a perpetual concern here in the panhandle and across the state, and in an age of diminishing supplies and tighter restrictions, Texas farmers are searching for new ways to get the most out of an ever-scarcer resource.

In the next fifty years, the state's population is expected to nearly double, with 39 percent growth here in the panhandle.  but our area's groundwater supply will likely drop by about two-thirds, and that has producers turning to technology to mitigate the shortfall.

The Texas Water Development Board is asking the state for 53 billion for water projects all over Texas - and it remains to be seen whether they'll get it and how they'll distribute what they have.

The last two years inflicted a punishing drought across most of Texas, and the agriculture industry absorbed enormous losses.  and with the ogalalla steadily dropping, legislators are working to keep some kind of control over water usage with more and stricter regulation.

And the combination of dropping supplies and tighter restrictions present both an obstacle and motivation to farmers, as AgriLife Extension Irrigation Specialist Nicholas Penny explains, "The regulatory limit is put in place to help maintain water in the right locations, but really, both create similar challenges to the farmer, which is, 'How do I make it profitable? How do I make high yields with less water."

Those challenges have sparked a renewed interest in technologies like low-evaporation center pivot and subsurface drip irrigation, which have a trickle-down effect.

"It affects everybody who consumes any sort of food, or wears any sort of fiber products," says Penny. "All of those come at a water cost, and ultimately, the consumer is voting with their money that this is how they like their water to be transferred, how they like their water to be consumed, and ultimately in the case of agriculture, how they like their water to taste."

According to the Texas Water Development Board, about 85 percent of the panhandle's groundwater is used for agricultural irrigation.

If you'd like to see the board's most recent water report or learn more about the relationship between water supply and technology, follow the links attached to this story.

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