Engineering Sustainable Irrigation Systems: Saving Water in Agriculture

For those living in developed countries with water available whenever needed, water shortages are not even considered for some. Many people take long showers, use exorbitant amounts of water for recreation, and give no thought to the crucial water issues facing our world. Water is essential to sustain life, grow fruits, vegetables, and livestock to feed our growing population. With an estimated 55 million people affected by drought each year, saving water and using water efficiently is top of mind for farmers, ranchers, and agriculture experts around the world. Technologies that implement sustainable irrigation systems and save water are becoming increasingly popular and necessary within the agriculture industry.

Flood Irrigation

There are several different types of irrigation and all of them come with advantages and disadvantages. Flood irrigation is one of the most used types of irrigation today, and it has been around for centuries. In areas with access to larger bodies of water, farmers can direct water straight into their fields. This type of irrigation accounts for 85% of irrigated crops worldwide. With this system, more water is used than necessary, which makes it a less sustainable method for irrigation.

Spray Irrigation

While flood irrigation requires little machinery and technology, sprinkler or spray systems are more sophisticated. By pumping water from the ground, sprinkler systems can be turned on and off, which adds some level of control to the amount of water used. Water flows through tubes positioned within the fields to water the crops. With this method, water can be lost to evaporation and wind.

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation is a type of microirrigation that is considered more efficient than flood and spray irrigation. This system works to water the plants directly, thus saving water. Water is sent through pipes with small holes installed above or below ground. Further sophisticating this design, smart sensors are installed that precisely measure the amount of water crops need. The sensors release water only when they sense the crops are thirsty. Other advantages of drip irrigation include reduced pest problems, low pumping needs, production advantages, and joint management of irrigation and fertilizer.

A Sustainable Future

As developers and agriculture experts work to address water issues, the use of drip irrigation is on the rise. While this technology is more expensive due to machinery and installation, it is more efficient than other methods of irrigation. Even with the higher cost, farmers must consider this option as the world continues to face drought and unpredictable water patterns. Without proper management of water usage, our world will experience devastating impacts. Addressing water issues is necessary to sustain the increased need for food, fuel, and fiber. Agriculture experts are prepared to assist farmers and ranchers in implementing water saving technologies in order to adapt to a changing climate and meet the needs of our growing world.

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