Linda F. Benedict, Xu, Yi Jun
Y. Jun Xu
In 2011, Texas experienced a severe drought that state officials declared as the worst on record. Sustained dry, hot conditions caused fires and damage to the ranching and farming industry, as well as placed a strain on the state’s recreational hunting and fishing sector. It has been estimated that the drought has cost Texas $5.2 billion in lost crops and livestock. The drought killed much of the grass used for grazing and, as a result, many Texan ranchers may be forced out of business. Meteorologists predict the drought conditions may continue well into next spring and summer. Some claim continuing drought conditions will persist in Texas for the next 15 years.
During the same time, Texas’s neighbor, Louisiana, had a vast amount of water traveling down the Mississippi River. The historic 2011 Mississippi River spring flood required the opening of the Morganza and Bonnet Carre Spillways in Louisiana. Billions of gallons of water were diverted from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya River Basin, which posed a serious flood threat to communities, making many people temporarily relocate to higher ground.
Imagine aqueducts that conveyed these waters from Louisiana to Texas. Imagine the nutrient-rich waters being used to irrigate the millions of acres of dried farming land and to feed the millions of thirsty livestock in Texas rather than contributing to the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone. Imagine the riverwater diversion system continuing to work in 2012, 2013, and many years beyond. What economic benefits would that bring to citizens of Texas and Louisiana?
Like petroleum and natural gas, water is a precious natural resource of Louisiana. However, nature’s gift has not been fully valued by Louisianians. Although there is an abundance of water in the state, we face a number of water-related issues that affect our environment, the state’s long-term economy and our well-being.
This issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine contains articles from 48 researchers and extension specialists at the LSU AgCenter. These papers present some of the results gained from their research activities in a wide range of topics including water availability and quality, their effects on crop and fisheries production, riverine nutrient and sediment sources, wetland restoration, saltwater intrusion, stormwater protection, wastewater treatment, best management practices for protecting water quality, and water resources education programs. It is our hope that through this publication, the people of Louisiana will not only be shown our commitment to creating and broadening the knowledge of effective utilization and protection of our state’s water resources, but also will be inspired to join us in the efforts.
Y. Jun Xu, Associate Professor, School of Renewable Natural Resources, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.
(This article was published in the fall 2011 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)