Monsanto and others are working ferverishly on bringing to market a drought tolerant corn variety - one that yields respectably with 30% less water. As good of news as this is, I'm wondering if it'll save any water or just increase yields considerably with the same water use (or more).
It's the classic question of how's it going to be used? Remember the low flow shower heads that were supposed to save water. Turns out most people didn't particularly like the weak water stream and ended up taking longer showers - resulting in..., well you can complete this sentence yourself.
Until the irrigation water supply is reduced enough (either by water right and use restrictions or by physical limitations of the supply) my money is on an increase of water use by producers who almost always act toward maximum profit motives. Yes, we will achieve more yield per unit of water, a production efficiency measure that is usually considered good, but the sad truth is that more water will be used, too. This situation can be a real problem for areas needing to reduce consumptive water use.
To be fair, this is not the fault of the seed breeders - it is the responsibility of the water managers to restrict water use if it is desired that this new technology should reduce water use while maintaining production levels (income). Heck, what we really need from Monsanto et. al., is a corn variety bred to yield 300 bushels per acre on 10 inches of irrigation water and which immediately dies when the 11th inch of irrigation water is applied. Now we're sure to get water savings and increased income. Good luck with this one.