Monday, October 12, 2009

Agricultural water use in Wisconsin

Data estimating water use in Wisconsin have been generated every 5 years since 1950. The latest report on state-wide water use has been released by the U.S. Geological Survey, compiling data through 2005.

Since 1950, water use for irrigation, industrial, commercial, domestic, and livestock purposes has increased 333%. The largest daily use of water is for cooling at thermoelectric-power plants: 6,898 million gallons per day (Mgal/d). Other findings include:

Irrigation (non-domestic)

  • Irrigation water use = 402 million gallons per day (Mgal/d)
  • 96% is from ground-water
  • 97% is used for agriculture

  • 3% is used for golf courses, commercial landscaping, athletic fields, parks, cemeteries, sod farms, nurseries, orchards, evergreen farms, greenhouses, specialty edibles, and botanical gardens

  • Irrigated crop land = 386,000 acres

  • Portage, Waushara, and Adams counties = highest agricultural irrigation water use; these counties lead the state in the production of potatoes, corn, and vegetables (snap beans, carrots, peas, etc.)
  • Primary crops irrigated (by acreage) = assorted vegetables, corn, potatoes, soybeans, alfalfa
  • Most intensively irrigated crops = berries, potatoes, corn

Non-irrigation (agricultural)

  • Livestock use = 73 Mgal/d; 90% from ground-water
  • Clark, Grant, and Marathon counties = highest livestock water use
  • Aquaculture use = 82 Mgal/d; 52% from surface-water


  • The paper-products industry is the largest industrial water user = 357 Mgal/d

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