Per Acre Water Use in Irrigated Farmland Declining

Hills Water Flat Land

Information updated this week from USDA’s Economic Research Service shows per-acre water usage is declining on irrigated farmland. Since 1969, the amount of water used per acre irrigated has decreased substantially. The average water use per irrigated acre was more than two acre-feet in 1969, declining to nearly 1.5 acre-feet by 2018. One acre-foot equals roughly 325,000 gallons. USDA says efficient water application technologies, such as the transition from gravity-based to pressurized irrigation systems, have driven the reduction in water use per acre of irrigated land. However, irrigated acreage in the U.S. grew from less than three million acres in 1980 to more than 58 million in 2017. The expansion of irrigated acreage reflects Federal, State, and local investment in irrigation infrastructure to deliver surface water to farms and ranches. Additionally, the expansion is partly due to advancements in well drilling and pumping technologies, facilitating growth in groundwater-based irrigated agriculture.

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