Irrigation & Water Use
Agriculture is a major user of ground and surface water in the United States, accounting for approximately 80 percent of the Nation's consumptive water use and over 90 percent in many Western States. See the data product Western Irrigated Agriculture, which summarizes the farm-structural characteristics for irrigated farms in the 17 Western States based on USDA's 2008 Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (with results from the 1998 included). Efficient irrigation systems and water management practices can help maintain farm profitability in an era of increasingly limited and more costly water supplies. Improved water management practices may also reduce the impact of irrigated production on offsite water quantity and quality, and conserve water for growing nonagricultural demands.
The effectiveness of public water conservation programs depends on how such programs account for diverse types and sizes of irrigated farms, as well as the extent to which such programs complement other watershed conservation and environmental programs and policies. The ERS research program investigates water allocation, water conservation, water management issues and other challenges facing irrigated agriculture in a changing water environment. Topics investigated include:
- The value of irrigated agriculture to U.S. agriculture, where it occurs, and what it produces;
- The cost and water-use impacts of producer decisions regarding the adoption of irrigation technologies and water-management practices; and
- Water-related policies affecting resource costs, water quality, profitability, and environmental effects.
We've redesigned our website. You may be interested in browsing the material that was available in the Irrigation and Water Use briefing room, which is available in our archive. It included a glossary of related terms.