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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Environmental Considerations

Authors
item Trout, Thomas
item Steele, Dean - NDSU
item Eggleston, K - USBR (RETIRED)

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: June 9, 2006
Publication Date: October 1, 2007
Repository URL: http://www.ars.usda.gov/sp2UserFiles/Place/54021000/Publications/Trout07EnviroASAEchpt.pdf
Citation: Trout, T.J., Steele, D.D., Eggleston, K.O. 2007. Design and Operation of Farm Irrigation Systems, 2nd edition: Environmental Considerations. Book Chapter 4:pp 77-107

Interpretive Summary: The impacts of irrigation and irrigated agriculture on humans and the environment are both positive and negative. The largest positive impact is the production of food and fiber for human use. Sixty percent of the crop value in the U.S., and about 40% of global food is produced with irrigation. We could not feed to current or projected world population without irrigation. However, the processes of storing, diverting, and moving around large quantities of water, and creating high-intensity irrigated agriculture, impacts the environment. Impacts include building dams that restrict river flows and fish migrations, diverting water that depletes river flows, pumping water that depletes groundwater aquifers, leaching agricultural chemicals and native substances such as selenium and salts into the groundwater, washing sediments and nutrients into rivers and lakes, and eroding and salinizing productive soils. It is critical to understand the impacts and design and manage the irrigation process to minimize the negative impacts.

Technical Abstract: Irrigation, in the process of storing, diverting, transporting, applying, consuming, and returning water, impacts the environment. These impacts are both positive and negative. The largest positive impact is the production of food and fiber for human use. Sixty percent of the crop value in the U.S., and about 40% of global food production is produced with irrigation. We could not feed the current or projected world population without irrigation. Negative impacts include restricting fish migrations with dams, depleting and changing river flows, depleting groundwater aquifers, and degrading the quality of river water and groundwater with salts and agricultural chemicals from leaching and sediments and nutrients in runoff water. It is critical to understand the impacts and design and manage the irrigation process to minimize the negative impacts.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014