Every five years since 1950, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Use Information Program (NWUIP) has compiled water-use information in the United States and published a circular report titled "Estimated use of water in the United States," which includes estimates of water withdrawals by State, sources of water withdrawals (groundwater or surface water), and water-use category (irrigation, public supply, industrial, thermoelectric, and so forth). This report discusses the impact of important considerations when estimating irrigated acreage and irrigation withdrawals, including estimates of conveyance loss, irrigation-system efficiencies, pasture, horticulture, golf courses, and double cropping.
This report also documents the methods and data sources used by the USGS Water Science Centers (WSCs) for estimating irrigated acreage and irrigation withdrawals reported in the 2000 and 2005 USGS 5-year water-use compilations. For the 2005 USGS water-use compilation, the most common sources used by WSCs for obtaining irrigated crop acreage were the 2002 Census of Agriculture, 2003 Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (FRIS), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), universities, and local and State agencies. In this report, the authors compare USGS-compiled irrigated acreage to Census of Agriculture- and FRIS- reported irrigated acreage. Nationwide irrigated acreage increased from the 1997 to 2007 Census of Agriculture estimates by about 1 percent and from the 1998 to 2008 FRIS estimates by about 9 percent. Conversely, total irrigated acreage decreased from the 2000 to 2005 USGS water-use compilations by about 2 percent.
An indirect method for estimating irrigation withdrawals is presented and results are compared to the 2005 USGS-reported irrigation withdrawals for selected States. This method is meant to demonstrate a way to check data reported or received from a third party, if metered data are unavailable. Of the 11 States where this method was applied, 8 States had estimated irrigation withdrawals that were within 15 percent of what was reported in the 2005 water-use compilation, and 3 States had estimated irrigation withdrawals that were more than 20 percent of what was reported in 2005. Recommendations for improving estimates of irrigated acreage and irrigation withdrawals also are presented in this report. Conveyance losses and irrigation-system efficiencies should be considered in order to achieve a more accurate representation of irrigation withdrawals. Better documentation of data sources and methods used can help lead to more consistent information in future irrigation water-use compilations. Finally, a summary of data sources and methods used to estimate irrigated acreage and irrigation withdrawals for the 2000 and 2005 compilations for each WSC is presented in appendix 1.