Recent advances in remote-sensing technology and Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEB) methods can provide accurate and repeatable estimates of evapotranspiration (ET) when used with satellite observations of irrigated lands. Estimates of ET are generally considered equivalent to consumptive use (CU) because they represent the part of applied irrigation water that is evaporated, transpired, or otherwise not available for immediate reuse. The U.S. Geological Survey compared ET estimates from SSEB methods to CU data collected for 1995 using indirect methods as part of the National Water Use Information Program (NWUIP). Ten-year (2000-2009) average ET estimates from SSEB methods were derived using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) 1-kilometer satellite land surface temperature and gridded weather datasets from the Global Data Assimilation System (GDAS). County-level CU estimates for 1995 were assembled and referenced to 1-kilometer grid cells to synchronize with the SSEB ET estimates. Both datasets were seasonally and spatially weighted to represent the irrigation season (June-September) and those lands that were identified in the county as irrigated. A strong relation (R2 greater than 0.7) was determined between NWUIP CU and SSEB ET data. Regionally, the relation is stronger in arid western states than in humid eastern states, and positive and negative biases are both present at state-level comparisons. SSEB ET estimates can play a major role in monitoring and updating county-based CU estimates by providing a quick and cost-effective method to detect major year-to-year changes at county levels, as well as providing a means to disaggregate county-based ET estimates to sub-county levels. More research is needed to identify the causes for differences in state-based relations.
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A comparison of consumptive-use estimates derived from the simplified surface energy balance approach and indirect reporting methods