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Sustainable use of groundwater dramatically reduces maize, soybean, and wheat production

Authors: Jonathan Winter*, Dartmouth College, Jose Lopez, University of Minnesota, Joshua Elliott, University of Chicago, Alexander Ruane, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Cheryl Porter, University of Florida, Gerrit Hoogenboom, University of Florida
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: Agriculture, Irrigation, Sustainability, Groundwater, United States
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The current rate of groundwater extraction in the United States is unsustainable. Therefore, it is essential to understand the impact of sustainable water use on food production. Here, we integrate a gridded crop model with satellite observations and water survey data to assess the effects of sustainable groundwater withdrawals on US agricultural production. Using the most optimistic assumptions for groundwater extraction, we find that sustainable groundwater use will decrease US irrigated production of maize, soybean, and winter wheat by 20%, 6%, and 25%, respectively. Using more conservative assumptions of groundwater availability, US irrigated production of maize, soybean, and winter wheat decrease by 45%, 37%, and 36%, respectively. These results demonstrate the vulnerability of US agricultural production to unsustainable groundwater pumping, highlighting the difficulty of expanding or even maintaining food production in the face of climate change, population growth, and shifting dietary demands.

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