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Irrigation Reduction in Agriculture | P2

History of Arizona Water Usage

Ranching and agriculture help form the backbone of Arizona’s economy, with 19,600 farms selling more than $3.7 billion worth of product per year.1 However, the industry involves intensive water use and approximately 70 percent of the state’s water is used in agriculture.2 

As this industry and the state's economy continue to grow, innovative farming techniques designed to reduce water consumption at the source will be increasingly important to decrease total water use for the agricultural sector.

Agricultural Management Practices for Water Quality Protection

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlines eight best management practices (BMPs) for farmers to reduce water quality impact from agricultural operations | View BMPs >

  • conservation tillage
  • crop nutrient management
  • pest management and conservation buffers
  • irrigation water management
  • grazing management
  • animal feeding operations management
  • erosion/sediment control.

Irrigation Techniques

Improving efficiency in irrigation is one of the most effective ways to conserve water. Innovative irrigation techniques such as those outlined below can reduce water demand without impacting production | Learn More >

Subsurface drip irrigation systems -- These systems use water more efficiently by applying it below the surface of the soil, ensuring that as much water as possible is used by the crop rather than being lost to evaporation.

Real-time soil moisture and weather monitoring -- Data loggers and sensors can be used to gather information about soil moisture and weather conditions that can then be incorporated into irrigation scheduling. Proper scheduling allows the highest amount of water to be absorbed by crops and additional watering to automatically shut down when the desired soil moisture level has been reached--avoiding over watering, and conserving water while sustaining crop growth and development.

Rainwater harvesting -- This method offers a range of simple to complex systems, all designed to capture and filter rainwater from various hard surfaces, such as rooftops, to store for use in irrigation. Captured rainwater can then be used in place of water drawn from an aquifer or other traditional sources. This can lead to cost savings and also allows for continued access to water when other sources are limited | Learn More about Harvesting Rainwater >  

Soil Erosion Prevention

Soil erosion can cause more nutrients and sediment in runoff. This is ultimately transferred to surface water when runoff flows into streams or rivers. Prevention of soil erosion is therefore an important step in maintaining water quality near farmland and ensuring continued access to water sources free from pollution. There are a variety of techniques available to farmers working to prevent soil erosion, including conservation buffers, surface cover and conservation tillage.

Conservation Buffers -- Using designated strips of land with permanent vegetation fixtures serves to slow runoff and enhance infiltration into the soil. The vegetation and soil capture some of the nutrients, sediment, and pollutants entrained in stormwater runoff | Learn More > 

Surface Cover (Cover Crops) -- Planting surface cover helps manage soil erosion, fertility and quality. Cover crops catch rainfall before it reaches the soil which means more water infiltrates within the soil and less flows away as runoff. This results in more sediment and nutrients remaining on site and less flowing into nearby surface water such as rivers and streams | Learn More >

Conservation Tillage -- Crop residues from previous years can be left on the soil to achieve similar benefits of cover as mentioned above. This can either be conducted as a no-till system in which crop residues are left as is during planting, or as a strip-till system in which crop residue is left between rows after some tillage | Learn More > 

Precision Agriculture Tools

Precision Agriculture (PA) is a farming management system that uses data about soil quality and crops to increase long term efficiency across an entire farm. By gathering data and analyzing it as part of a regular decision making process over time, farms can measure the impact of new technology designed to optimize use of resources and crop yields | Learn More >