More and Better Uses Could Be Made of Billions of Gallons of Water by Improving Irrigation Delivery Systems

CED-77-117: Published: Sep 2, 1977. Publicly Released: Sep 2, 1977.

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Agricultural irrigation uses 83 percent of water consumed in the United States. Large amounts of water transported to farms are wasted annually because of inefficient delivery systems which seep water.

The seepage problem exists throughout the West and causes a loss of water for beneficial purposes. Federal projects supply water to only about one-fifth of the total irrigated western lands and, therefore, cooperation among state, local and federal agencies is necessary to lessen seepage. In 1975, the Bureau of Reclamation reported a loss of 2,600 billion gallons of water during delivery, primarily through seepage. Federal agency programs related to this problem are not specifically designed or administered to effectively deal with it. Since the Department of the Interior accounts for 90 percent of federal financial involvement in projects involving irrigation, it should take the lead in promoting better management practices in this area. A program for improved water conveyance systems should be designed to: (1) improve the accuracy of reported seepage data; (2) consider overall basinwide effects of conveyance system improvements, including more definitive criteria for selecting the systems to improve; and (3) identify and resolve institutional and legal constraints hampering improvements to water conveyance systems.

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