Corn that's not getting enough water (
by Dan Burns
Aug 23, 2021, 9:00 AM

Now it’s flagrantly time to get rid of corn ethanol as fuel

Despite the drought, most of the corn and soybeans around here look pretty good. (“Around here” means the parts of Mille Lacs, Isanti, Sherburne, and Benton counties that I drive across now and then.) That’s because the larger farms around here mostly have irrigation systems. (It’s different with the small operations.) Which brings us to today’s topic.

The US government announced its first-ever water shortage declaration for the Colorado River on August 16, 2021, triggering future cuts in the amount of water states will be allowed to draw from the river. The Tier 1 shortage declaration followed the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s forecast that the water in Lake Mead—the largest reservoir in the US, located on the Arizona-Nevada border—will drop below an elevation of 1,075 feet above sea level, leaving less than 40% of its capacity, by the end of 2021…

Central Arizona farmers are the big losers in this first round of cuts. The cities are protected because they enjoy the highest priority in Arizona for water delivered through the Central Arizona Project, a 330-mile canal from the Colorado River. From my experience analyzing Western water policy, I expect that this declaration won’t halt growth in the affected states — but growth can no longer be uncontrolled. Increasing water supply is no longer a viable option, so states must turn to reducing demand…

The Upper Basin states — Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico — will also suffer…

These releases will harm farmers and ranchers, who may be forced to raise less-water-intensive crops or fewer animals due to water shortages. The Upper Basin states get much of their water from snowpack, which has declined in recent years as the West warms.
(Popular Science)

So, on top of everything else that’s wrong with ethanol as fuel, why are we still wasting water on growing the corn used to ferment it, anywhere?

The listed states are not among the biggest producers, by any means. But some of them do grow a lot more corn than you might think. And since we don’t need the ethanol, by any rational standard, they could, and should, be growing substantially less of it. As should the rest of the country.

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