ASA Talks Water Security

Good afternoon!

As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, our own Fred Vocasek participated in a symposium discussing water security at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston.

The American Society of Agronomy’s Water Security for Agriculture Talk Force recently sat down to answer a few questions. Other members of the task force include Rattan Lal and Gary “Pete” Peterson.

You can find part one of the interview here.

Part two of the interview can be found here. 


Treated wastewater often contains potential pollutants, such as nitrate, that require careful monitoring. Here, the movement of a blue tracer dye through the soil helps researchers determine whether pollutants are reaching the groundwater. Photo: Fred Vocasek.

From the interview:

Let’s start with the term water security. How do you define it?

Rattan: Maybe I can read our task force’s definition. It says: “Water security is present when all agricultural systems and the people dependent on them have physical, social, economic, and political access to adequate, clean, and safe water at all times to meet the physiological demands for high and sustained water productivity, ecosystem services, and healthy life of people and biota.”

What we really need to indicate is that this definition sounds very similar to some of the published definitions of food security. We tried to draw parallels between the two, so that water security and food security are kind of two sides of the same coin, if you want to put it that way.

So, of all the issues ASA could have chosen to focus on, why water security?

Fred: As you look around the landscape, a lot of people are involved in water issues: hydrologists, geologists, regulators, engineers. But in food production and agronomy—that’s where the water, the soil, and the plant root all come together, and that’s where we live and breathe. So I think we’re in a unique position as scientists and as practitioners to address some of the issues.

Rattan: I would add that water has no alternative. We have alternatives for oil and other resources, but water we must have—there is really no substitute for it. And at present water is a very scarce commodity, and it’s going to become even more scarce with the extreme events of climate change, such as what happened in the U.S. last summer. This drought that we are experiencing in the U.S. is a century drought. Really nothing like this has been experienced for over 80 years or more, and it’s due to the scarcity of water in the root zone. So, water security is really a very critical issue of the 21st century, and I think it is a very timely issue for the American Society of Agronomy to address.

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