Challenges in Developing a Water Use Reporting Program for Irrigation in Alabama

Authors: Philip Chaney*, Auburn University, Jarrett Roland, Auburn University, Meredith Moore, Auburn University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Agricultural Geography, Sustainability Science
Keywords: Water Resources, Irrigation, Agriculture, Sustainability, Alabama
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Studio 1, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Accurate accounting of water use is a key factor in managing water resources in an efficient, sustainable manner. In 1993, Alabama passed the Water Resources Act to gain a better understanding of the state’s surface and groundwater resources. This act initiated a program that required users with the capacity to withdraw 100,000 gallons per day (gpd) to apply for a Certificate of Use (CoU). Farmers were required to provide the location (latitude and longitude) of the pump used to withdraw water for irrigating a field, to identify the source of the water (surface water or groundwater), and to report the amount withdrawn each month. At first glance this program appears to be a simple and reasonable approach to collecting the necessary data. However, the program has several flaws. To begin with, the law did not include penalties for noncompliance. Additional problems were recently detected in a study of water use for center pivot (CP) irrigation in the Wiregrass Region of Alabama, which is one of the most active irrigation regions in the state. For example, the CoU application form does not request information about the number and location of center pivots supplied by the pump. In most cases it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine which CP is linked to which water use report. Consequently, data for evaluating critical statistics like amount of water applied per acre are sketchy at best. The presentation will review these problems and recommendations made to the state to help improve the program.

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