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Farmers Using Less Water to Irrigate

Farmers Using Less Water to Irrigate
An early morning view of an alfalfa field irrigated with a center pivot sprinkler system.

The 2018 Irrigation and Water Management Survey results are out this week, showing that over 231,400 farms irrigated 55.9 million acres. That included 83.4 million acre-feet of water in the United States.

By way of comparison, the 2013 survey showed there were just over 229,230 farms that irrigated 55.3 million acres, which included 88.5 million acre-feet of water. The results show that even though the number of farms irrigating, and the amount of land increased slightly over those five years, the total amount of water used to irrigate land actually declined.

The 83.4 million acre-feet of water used to irrigate land in 2018 represent a 5.8 percent drop from 2013. The average acre-feet applied to land was 1.5, which is lower than the 1.6 in 2013. An acre-foot is the amount of water required to cover one acre to a depth of one foot.

The largest portion of irrigated farmland acres in the U.S. was dedicated to cropland, including grains and oilseeds, vegetables, nurseries, greenhouses, as well as hay crops. The survey also shows that more acres are irrigated with sprinkler systems than with gravity irrigation.

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