She said crop rotation and market economics also play a key role in water use. “Relatively high values for corn and other crops have motivated planting—and irrigating—these crops. Efficient irrigation technologies and good management are critical to producing drought-sensitive crops on limited water.

“A few years ago, energy prices spiked but commodity crop prices didn't, and we saw decreased pumping. Economics drove water conservation for a season.”  

Hopper said farmers must set realistic production goals, based on water availability and economics. “Yield heroes,” producers who want to make the highest yields possible may not be as efficient, particularly with water, as those who try to “make the most efficient yield with the water available. We need to take the high ground, especially in the court of public opinion, and possibly have them treat our views more favorably than those of our opponents.”

Water, most agree, will become a bigger and bigger target for regulation and control. Maintaining local jurisdiction over how an area’s water resources are managed will be crucial, and winning that battle for public opinion will play a significant role in assuring that all water stakeholders retain a fair share.