Farmers’ crop choices should be driven by market conditions and not decided by the amount of water available for adequate irrigation, Mississippi’s lead regulator for the state’s natural resources told attendees at Delta Research and Extension Center’s July 19 Soybean and Corn Field Day in Stoneville, Miss.

“Adequate water for irrigation and aquaculture is essential. We’ve got to have it, because irrigation is the best crop insurance we’ve got. That is an issue that I feel strongly about, and the issuing of well permits will continue to be handled as it is now,” stressed Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality executive director Trudy Fisher.

Read: Peanut profit: irrigation top key

“We’ve got to continue to focus on the future. We don’t have years to waste, and we don’t have decades to find solutions to our water resource issues,” she said. Currently, Fisher has three staff-level work groups helping to find ways to insure Mississippi’s abundant water supply continues. While one group focuses its efforts on education and outreach, another is helping to determine what kind of water metering program is needed and will work best on Mississippi Delta farms. “It’s the next step,” she said. “How can you best conserve water if you don’t truly know how much you are using to irrigate your crop. We can’t solve a problem if we don’t understand it.”

A third, a conjunctive water management work group, is researching both group and surface water use with a goal towards the development of new surface water supplies that are not currently being captured for irrigation use. The goal, Fisher said, is to find new ways to use both groundwater and surface water, as well as to minimize waste.

“It’s clear to me that the greatest natural resource issue for our state is insuring a sustainable water supply for the Delta,” said Fisher.