Water Well Journal

January 2015

Water Well Journal

Issue link: http://read.dmtmag.com/i/440561

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Page 30 of 63

T he number of irrigation wells in the United States increased just under 12% 1 between 2008 and 2013. The number of farms with wells capable of use for irrigation also in- creased, about 28% in the same period. According to the 2013 Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey of the U.S. De- partment of Agriculture and the Bureau of the Census, some 121,491 farms in 2013 had 475,796 irrigation wells. In 2008 there were 94,942 farms and 426,756 wells, while in 2003 there were 100,717 farms and 397,167 wells. While agricultural irrigation is the largest source of groundwater with- drawals annually in the United States according to the U.S. Geological Sur- vey, the 49.5 billion gallons per day esti- mated to be withdrawn in 2010 are still only 43% of the total 115 billion gallons of water used for irrigation each day. However, as Table 1 shows, there have been substantially higher estimates over the various five-year periods. Some 44 states recorded gains in the number of irrigation wells used in 2013, up significantly from the 27 states which recorded gains in 2008. The bal- ance—the six states of California, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Wyoming—recorded losses in 2013. The top five states by number of wells used serving irrigated agriculture in 2013 were Texas, Nebraska, Califor- nia, Arkansas, and Kansas (Table 2). Between 1998 and 2003, California had seen the second largest gain in irri- gation wells used, but it experienced a significant decline in the 2003 to 2008 period, losing some 3231 (5% decline). Nationally in 2013, some 35,720 farms had 12,968,068 acres irrigated by 132,700 wells equipped with flowme- ters, and 76,193 farms had 24,421,398 acres served by 310,483 wells equipped with backflow prevention devices. Metered wells increased by nearly 24% between 2008 and 2013, with 132,700 wells now metered, about 28% of the wells used in 2013. Metered wells irrigated some 12,968,068 acres, an in- crease of nearly 20%. Fortunately, only 3611 wells were flowing or artesian in nature, just 0.76% of the national total. However, the number of these wells in- creased 168% in 2013 from 2008 levels. Florida had the most artesian or flowing wells in 2013—524—some 14.5% of all flowing wells in the nation. Arkansas was second with 319 and Utah third with 308. These are increases from 2008. Nationally, the average irrigation well depth was 229 feet, about 6% less than in 2008. The average depth to water was 90 feet, some 10 feet and 10%, shallower than in 2008. In 1998, the average well depth was 238 feet, and the average depth to water was 93 feet. Of farms reporting changes in the av- erage depth to water in the well, 70,889 wells were reported as increasing— meaning the water level was lower, while 129,206 were reported as decreas- ing—meaning the water level was ris- ing. The number of wells reported as decreasing in 2013 was 66% greater than in 2008. Wells with increasing depths to water were 35% of all the wells with changes in reported levels in 2013, some 13% fewer than in 2008. California led the nation with the number of wells with increased depth to groundwater with 15,405. It was fol- lowed by Texas' 14,522 and Nebraska's 10,710. Combined, these three states account for 57% of the 70,889 wells with increased depths to water. Texas led the nation with the number of wells with decreased depth to groundwater with 46,948—some 36% of the nation's total. Trailing Texas to round out the top three were California's 18,776 and Nebraska's 18,021. The same states being among the national leaders for increasing and decreasing depths to groundwater illus- trates the site-specific nature of the use of the resource. IRRIGATION WELL MARKET GROWS Number of irrigation wells in the United States is up 12% since 2008. By Kevin McCray, CAE IRRIGATION continues on page 30 Twitter @WaterWellJournl WWJ January 2015 29 Some 44 states recorded gains in the number of irrigation wells used in 2013, up significantly from the 27 states which recorded gains in 2008. 1 Percentages and some other numbers have been rounded to the nearest whole number, or to a single digit to the right of the decimal.

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