Wisconsin’s a minor player, overall, when it comes to irrigation, but farming operations have made a big investment where it’s being used.
In 2018, there were 231,474 farms in the United States that irrigated at some point during the year, an increase of 2,237 farms since 2013. They irrigated 55.9 million acres (about one-fourth of their farmland), applying 83.4 million acre-feet of water, a decrease of 5.8 percent from 2013. The average amount of water applied per acre was 1.5 acre-feet, down from 1.6 in 2013.
1,733 Wisconsin farms used 5,166 wells in 2018 for irrigation. The average pumping capacity for all pumped wells was 650 gpm.
Of the wells:
• 34 percent had flow meters to measure the amount of water supplied
• 81 percent had backflow prevention devices to prevent cross contamination
The average well depth in 2018. The average depth to water at the beginning of irrigation season was 49 feet.
Five states – California, Nebraska, Arkansas, Texas, and Idaho – together accounted for 50 percent of U.S. irrigated acres in 2018 and 56 percent of total irrigation water applied.
The total amount of water applied declined 5.8 percent between 2013 and 2018.
California applied the largest total amount of irrigation water, 24.5 million acre-feet.
Arizona applied the most water per acre, an average of 4.7 acre-feet.
Irrigation provides water to fields in the open and to commodities grown under protection in greenhouses or other structures. Acres in the open accounted for nearly all irrigated acres in 2018.
Total energy expenses for pumping well and surface water in Wisconsin amounted to $18.1 million.
Infrastructure costs for equipment, facilities, land improvement, and computer technology were $11.6 million. Water purchased from off-farm sources amounted to $288,000.
Wisconsin farmers spent $9,256,000 during 2018 on new or replacement equipment and machinery of which 73% was scheduled replacement or maintenance.
Wisconsin farmers spent $368,000 on new well construction.
Farmers in Wisconsin who irrigated spent $1,778,000 on computers, control panels, and computer controlled valves and hardware for irrigation water management during the survey year.