Jul 19, 2017
WSU researchers take another look at effects of water loss

Researchers from Washington State University have taken a second look at what has happen to potato farms in the water-challenged Odessa aquifer region, located in Adams, Franklin, Grant and Lincoln counties in east central Washington.

The original economic analysis was conducted in 2005. Since that time, irrigated potato acreage in the area fell by over 25 percent due to water quantity and quality issues. As the aquifer declines, deeper and warmer water of poor quality is being extracted for irrigation purposes.

“If the current Odessa surface water development project financially stalls in one of the most productive potato agricultural areas in the U.S., severe economic losses will occur,” said Matt Harris, director of governmental affairs for the Washington State Potato Commission. “This is a high stakes game of water poker and hopefully family farms will win in the end.”

WSU reported the costs of completely losing potato production in the Odessa sub-area would exceed $37 million annually, and roughly 1,100 jobs would no longer be supported in rural Washington. The long-term impacts may extend even further if potato processing plants reduce their output. If this occurs, the estimated total reductions in regional output would exceed $138 million annually, costing nearly 3,000 jobs.

“Even with increased water scarcity and declining potato acreage, the sub-area produced 943,000 tons of potatoes which were then sold to processors within the four-county region. If irrigation were to stop, it is anticipated most farmers would convert their land into dryland wheat production (given current cropping patterns),” according to the research report summary.

For a copy of the study, visit http://ses.wsu.edu/impact/






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