No place in the Mississippi Delta has ever had an irrigation well go dry, says Dean Pennington — “but with continuing overuse we’re seeing lower groundwater levels in the alluvial aquifer almost every year. We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing and have a sustainable water supply for the generations to come.”By setting goals for a reasonable level of conservation that most landowners can meet, the executive director of the Yazoo Mississippi Delta Joint Water Management District told producers at the annual Delta Ag Expo at Cleveland, Miss., “We can insure that every farm will have the water it needs for crop production.”

 To help accomplish this, “modest but significant changes” in permit regulations for irrigation water wells took effect Jan. 1.
Groundwater has been “a really good tool” for agriculture in the Delta since the 1970s, Pennington says, “but there is a modest level of urgency to make some practical changes in water usage in order to protect this resource and insure that a dry well never happens.”When annual measurements are made of water volume changes in the aquifer, “some years there are net gains, but we’ve had a lot more negative years, when water pumped out has been greater than that from recharge.”
Compared with the West and the Southwest regions of the nation, the Mississippi Delta has a lot of water, Pennington notes. “Our challenge is to use it as efficiently and effectively as possible. If we don’t, we’re headed for a time when we might not have the water we need.”