Irrigation and drainage allow for high yields in areas that otherwise have shortages or excesses of water. There is no doubt that we need such water management practices to secure a food supply for a growing population and provide the high yields needed to arrest the conversion of natural lands into agriculture. Some of the most productive lands use drainage and/or irrigation, and the ability to control water regimes provides great advantages. Yet there is a larger context: These practices exact a price on the environment by diverting water from its natural course and increasing the potential for soil and water contamination. Good management practices can be used to reduce the impacts of altered water regimes. Building healthy soils is an important component of making soil and water management more sustainable by reducing the need for irrigation and drainage. In addition, other practices that promote more judicious use of water and chemical inputs help reduce environmental impacts.
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