By Steven Parrett, Sand County Foundation

People across America and around the world are experiencing stress due to alarming fluctuations in freshwater supplies. The problem is not new; past civilizations exceeded Mother Nature’s bounty, then crumbled or fled in a desperate search for water.

Today, we still struggle to wrap our minds around the issue. We assume clean, affordable and abundant water will always be available when we need it. But this is not the case – it never has been. People need affordable, reliable, clean water but it keeps moving in a natural cycle. It falls and runs, evaporates, dissolves and slips away.

Here in America, a primordial fear of water scarcity is beginning to gnaw at us. Yet, we demand cheap, abundant water. The physics and chemistry of water won’t ever change. Instead, we must change our thinking and our actions. Our challenge, now, is to become responsible water stewards by understanding, valuing and caring for water, as if we live in a desert, because our lives depend on water.

Sand County Foundation applies the conservation principles developed by scientist – landowner Aldo Leopold as described in his final influential book, “A Sand County Almanac.” (Spend a weekend reading this seminal work to experience a wondrous year with Mother Nature.) Leopold teaches us that careful stewardship of land – soils, waters, plants and animals – requires desire, skills and sound financial practices. In other words, good stewardship takes both the will and the means to act.

Today, there is enormous opportunity to use water more efficiently but the relatively low cost of water creates a tendency for us to use it carelessly. While we create reservoirs to hold water and we are paying more attention to water conservation, we have a long way to go before we can say we’re good stewards of water.


One way to meet our needs in an environmentally-friendly way is to conserve water where it falls on the ground. This method holds great promise – it can help replenish depleted aquifers, keep streams from drying out in the summer and quench parched crops and thirsty cities. Sand County Foundation is promoting this technique in our new program called Water As A Crop.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a seed company committed to effective environmental stewardship, is providing essential scientific and financial support for the Water As A Crop  initiative to help landowners realize water is a valuable crop worth holding, nurturing and producing for people and the environment.

Leading industrial water users are taking greater responsibility for sustainable water management as well. Water As A Crop supporter, MillerCoors is investing in water stewardshipalong the Trinity River, a vital water source for Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, Texas. The beer maker is providing needed financial support to farmers and ranchers, who in turn are planting native vegetation along streams, converting pastures back into deep-rooted prairie grass and installing vegetative filter strips adjacent to cultivated fields.

These proven conservation practices gradually filters water into the ground so it can slowly enter the water system again, clean and clear. These methods also produce wildlife habitat, and more-resilient food and ecological systems. Nature returns when people cherish water as a crop. And, perhaps more importantly, when water is managed, we become good stewards of the Earth and can take pride in our efforts to meet current and future water needs.

Sand County Foundation’s mission is to advance the use of ethical and scientifically sound land management practices and partnerships for the benefit of people and the ecological landscape.

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