Back to Glossary of Terms

Definition for

Irrigation

Applying water (or wastewater) to land areas to supply the water (and sometimes nutrient) needs of plants. Techniques for irrigating include furrow irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, trickle (or drip) irrigation, and flooding. About 51 million acres of land are irrigated in the United States. More acres of corn are irrigated than any other crop, but only about 15% of the harvested acres. In contrast, irrigation is used for 100% of rice, 81% of orchards, 64% of vegetables, and 36% of cotton. About 40% of freshwater withdrawals in the nation are for irrigation, making agriculture the single largest user of water. Nearly 90% of all irrigation water withdrawals are in the western states, where in some areas competition for available supplies among uses, including base stream flow, has become controversial. Consumptive use as a percent of withdrawals is about 61% for irrigation.

Not what you're looking for?

Check out other glossary terms or Send us a Message and we're happy to answer your questions!