Drought conditions in a number of states west of the Mississippi River point to widespread problems across the U.S. as water use is restricted, affecting farmers and the food supply chain, as well as economic supply chains that support the country’s economy, according to West Virginia Universityexperts. 

Robert Duval, a climate change expert, is professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management and Leadership in the School of Public Health. Endilson Bernardes is an expert in process transformation and supply network innovation; he is a professor in the John Chambers School of Business and Economics. An associate professor in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Levan Elbakidze’s research includes water resource economics.

Quotes and Comments

“As the drought in the American Southwest deepens to record proportions, we will watch another cycle of extreme weather conditions lead to competing demands for scarce water resources.  Water badly needed for the region’s agricultural production will also need to be conserved for community water supplies.  California, hit hard by this drought, provides 11% of the country’s agricultural production, the most of any state.  Water scarcity significantly reduces food availability, raises food prices, requires changes in agricultural production, heightens food insecurity, requires residential water conservation measures, and creates spillover effects throughout the economy.  Because we in the East (and everywhere else) are not willing to accept the higher energy prices needed to mitigate these problems, we will instead pay for it at the grocery store instead of the gas pump. While we perceive these droughts as cyclic, the underlying trend is an inexorable increase in these extreme conditions.  So this drought is worse than the last one. And then there are the wildfires…” Robert Duval, professor, WVU School of Public Health

“The frequency and intensity of natural disasters and extreme weather have been causing economic stress on farmers. The financial cost of the damage can propagate throughout the food supply network system. It can overstress the financial institutions that provide crucial cash flow to growers and, in turn, can potentially disrupt not only the food supply but the financial supply chain that supports the broader economy. There are other impacts on the system as well. For instance, the recent water cut in Arizona can heavily impact family farms responsible for a significant share of the state’s livestock, dairy, cotton, barley, and wheat, and challenge their livelihoods and the supply of those items.” —Ednilson Bernardes, professor, WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics

“As water scarcity in the Western US intensifies, the debates about distribution of limited water supplies across competing uses will grow. Efficient use of the scarce resource requires allocation to the uses with the greatest marginal benefits and consideration of tradeoffs will be necessary for effective drought management. Where technologically and legally feasible, markets and prices can be useful for balancing competing demands and limited supplies.”— Levan Elbakidze, associate professor, WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design