Irrigation increases in U.S. and in Minnesota

Irrigation of farms has increased in Minnesota and across the United States over the last five years, and the pumping of groundwater for irrigation has increased faster. 

That’s according to a new survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and water appropriations data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

 Between 2003 and 2008, the total farmland irrigated in the United States increased 4.6 percent – from 52.5 million acres to 54.9 million acres, the USDA reported this week. The total amount of water from all sources used in agricultural irrigation across the country increased 5.2 percent – from 86.8 million acre-feet to 91.2 acre-feet. 

 But the USDA’s Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey found that the pumping of groundwater for irrigation increased 12 percent – from 43.5 million acre-feet to 48.5 million acre-feet over those five years. 

An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons. So the amount of groundwater pumped for irrigation last year was just under 12 trillion gallons. 

In Minnesota, the total amount of water used in irrigation in 2008 for all purposes – farmland, golf courses, cemeteries and other uses — was slightly less than 117 billion gallons, up 10.5 percent from 2003. Of that total, about 103 billion was groundwater, according to the DNR records.

The increase in groundwater use for irrigation in Minnesota over the five years was 10.7 percent.