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Water Use Monitoring for Irrigation in the U.S. and Alabama: Lesson learned for Achieving Sustainability

Authors: Philip Chaney*, Auburn University, Jarrett Roland, Auburn University, Meredith Moore, Auburn University, Christopher Burton, Auburn University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: irrigation, water use, center pivot, sustainability, Alabama
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Accurate monitoring of water use is an important step in managing water resources in an efficient, sustainable manner. Irrigation is especially important as the largest consumptive use of freshwater in the U.S. The USGS and the USDA monitor water use at the national level, but many states have their own programs. Alabama collects data for irrigation, but there are concerns about participation and accuracy. We investigated center pivot irrigation, the primary method in the state, in southeastern Alabama for 2011 to 2015. The number of center pivots increased greatly (461 to 712; +52.3%), but the number of pumps registered with the state remained the same (126) and water use reporting was consistently low at 50%. Closer inspection of the data found many problems including inaccurate pump locations (latitude and longitude) provided on application forms (also many duplicate locations). Consequently, estimates for depth of irrigation (inches) applied to crops were considered highly inaccurate. Recommendations for revising the program are provided to help Alabama, and potentially other states, to manage its water resources in a more efficient, sustainable manner.

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