Irrigation Journal

11:17AM Dec 11, 2009
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U.S. Uses Less Water Today

The U. S. uses less water today than it did 35 years ago, despite a 30% population increase. Declines in water use are partly attributable to more efficient irrigation systems and alternative cooling methods at power plants, according to a recently released U.S. Geological Survey report.

The report, "Summary of Estimated Water Use in the United States in 2005,” states that Americans used 410 billion gallons of water per day in that year, slightly less than what was consumed in 2000.

"Because electricity generation and irrigation together accounted for a massive 80% of our water use in 2005, the improvements in efficiency and technology give us hope for the future,” says Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science.

The report concludes that irrigation accounted for 31% of total withdrawals and 37% of freshwater withdrawals. Even though the amount of irrigated acres has increased, irrigation application rates have steadily decreased—a change that the report's authors attribute to the increased use of more efficient irrigation systems.

"We are pleased to see that irrigation efficiency played such a major role in decreasing our nation's overall water use,” says John Farner, director of federal affairs for the Irrigation Association. "As our nation's population increases, the demand for food will increase, as will the amount of Americans owning homes. We will need to do more with less in the future than we've ever had before.”

The full report is available at


Irrigation Alters Land Rental Agreements

Developing an irrigation water supply is a permanent improvement on real estate, which is why landowners usually own irrigation systems. However, ownership of irrigation equipment can vary. The landowner can own the equipment; the tenant can lease or own the equipment; or the equipment can be jointly owned by landowner and tenant.

Rental agreements for irrigated farmland should be designed to consider the ownership of the equipment.

A fair lease requires that the contributions of each party be identified and assigned a dollar value. These contributions include land, labor, capital, management and variable costs.

Land is the major contribution of the landowner. A lease for irrigated land needs to consider the value of the land and the water supply (well or irrigation lake) separately from the value of the irrigation system. Consult property tax records and depreciation schedules to separate the values. Land sales usually list the value of the bare land and the equipment attached to the land.

Count it once. Don't count the value of the irrigation equipment twice by including it in the market value of the land and then again as an equipment investment. If the land is valued as irrigated land, the well, reservoir and other permanent facilities should not be counted again as a capital contribution. If the land is valued as dry land (or land with irrigation potential), the value of the irrigation facilities and equipment must be assigned to the contributing parties.

Irrigation investments can complicate a lease arrangement. Crop-share rental agreements often share variable costs, such as seed, fertilizer, pesticides and harvest drying. If the landowner does not own all of the equipment, tenants may be hesitant to purchase equipment. Writing a longer-term lease, specifying the parties responsible for repair costs, etc., may help to alleviate concerns.