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Water scarcity threatens lower Rio Grande's farm economy


The agricultural landscape of Texas' Lower Rio Grande Valley is under threat from an irrigation water crisis. A recent report from Texas A&M University's CNAS, in collaboration with AgriLife Research, paints a concerning picture for 2024.

The valley, which saw a $887 million agricultural yield in 2022, might face a $495.8 million revenue loss if irrigation water isn't available. 

The study encompasses Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties, emphasizing the integral role of irrigation in maintaining crop production. Notably, crops like cotton, vegetables, and fruits are heavily dependent on irrigation. The potential absence of water could result in a staggering $993.2 million economic loss and a hit to 8,404 jobs. 

Row crops, primarily dependent on irrigation, could shift to less productive dryland yields. Specialty crops, unable to survive without water, face total production halts. This scenario is not just about agriculture; it extends to related sectors like processing and marketing, underlining the broader economic implications. 

Historical events, including droughts and extreme weather, have already strained the region's water resources, making the situation more precarious. This report serves as a critical alert, underscoring the need for sustainable water management to protect the livelihoods dependent on the Lower Rio Grande Valley's agriculture. 

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