New studies indicate that large amounts of tax dollars—in the form of farm subsidies—have been spent to help farmers buy more efficient irrigation equipment when, in fact, millions have been wasted on sprinklers and pipelines that are using more water, not less, and "threatening vulnerable aqifers and streams."
The Environmental Working Group indicates that the government has provided about $4.2 bilion in conservation subsidy payments to landowners since 1997. About $1 billion was specifically earmarked for irrigation efficiencies.
But this morning's New York Times reports that some farmers who received payments used "some of their water savings to expand irriation or grow thirstier crops, not to reduce consumption."
The United Geological Survey says that while the population has nearly doubled over the last 50 years, water consumption has trippled and farm irrigation accounts for 80 percent of the water used nationwide.
"Given that we just had the worst drought in the last 50 years, lawmakers need to really look at this program and how it's having the opposite effect of what was intended," Craig Cox, a senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, told the Times. "Buying better equipment does not save water. Irrigation is the poster child for why we need to reform."