Drought and other threats to the water supply around the world have brought up new questions about the efficient use of agricultural water. Without a common understanding of the best irrigation practices and green technologies, extreme weather events with additional demands on local water supplies will put pressure on this industry.
Although every U.S. state features irrigation practices, 71% of the irrigated farms in the United States are located in the Western part of the country. Pressure systems account for up to 65% of the sales produced by the irrigation and green industry each year.
Gravity flow systems, including controlled, furrow, or uncontrolled flooding, represent just 35% of the irrigation systems used.
Important Irrigation and Green Industry Statistics
#1. In the 5-year period ending in 2013, over 470,000 acres in the United States discontinued their irrigation practices because of groundwater or surface water shortages. (Congressional Research Service)
#2. Even though 71% of the irrigated farms exist in the 17 western states, most locations have reduced the number of acres supported by the industry since 1997. At the same time, some states along the eastern coast of the U.S. have seen 50% increases in irrigation over the same time. (Congressional Research Service)
#3. 55% of irrigation water originates from groundwater wells in the United States. 35% of the water was delivered to the farm, while 10% occurs because of on-property surface water which is available. (Congressional Research Service)
#4. According to 2012 data, 50% of the market value of U.S. crops, a total of $106.3 billion, came from irrigated land. (Congressional Research Service)
#5. Irrigation systems in the United States create an industry valued at $78 billion in 2018. Since 2013, the industry has grown at an average rate of 0.8%. The number of firms active in the industry has grown by 1.5%, while employment opportunities rose by 1.6%. (IBIS World)
#6. 80% of the consumptive water in the United States goes toward agricultural use. In the Western states, over 90% of the water may be used for irrigation purposes. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#7. About 56 million acres of pastureland and cropland were irrigated in 2012. Just 7.6% of all croplands and pasturelands are irrigated, despite these farms producing 50% of the agricultural value experienced each year. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#8. Nebraska represents the largest share of irrigated land in the United States, with 14.9% of the total national acreage managed within the state. California comes in second at 14.1%. These leaders are followed by Arkansas (8.6%), Texas (8%), and Idaho (6%). (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#9. Corn production during the 2012 growing seasons accounted for about 25% of the total irrigated acreage that was harvested. Most of these cropland acres were located in either the Northern or Southern Plains states. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#10. Outside of corn, hay and miscellaneous forage represent 18% of the irrigated croplands in use in the United States each year. Other crops contributed significant shares too, such as soybeans (14%), orchard crops (8%), vegetables (8%), and cotton (7%). (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#11. Even though Arkansas is the third-largest supplier of irrigated lands in the U.S., 77% of their irrigated acres come from gravity irrigation. (Congressional Research Service)
#12. 23% of the contractors in the industry expect their businesses to be sold within the next 10 years. Only 48% of those contractors have an exit strategy in place. (Lawn and Landscape)
#13. The average company focusing on the irrigation and green industry for revenues hires 13 full-time employees, six seasonal employees, and two part-timers. 28% said their location hired no one new over the past year. (Lawn and Landscape)
#14. The total revenues earned from the domestic water supply and irrigation systems in the United States totaled $66 billion in 2014. In 2009, the industry earned revenues of $59.7 billion. (Statista)
#15. The median revenue for businesses who serve greenhouses, lawn, and landscape needs (including irrigation) is $291,000. That’s up from $256,000 per location in 2015 and $217,000 per location in 2014. (Lawn and Landscape)
#16. 86% of landscaping contractors say that they turned a profit in 2016. (Lawn and Landscape)
#17. 59% of landscaping contractors say they added ornamental tree services in the past year, despite the fact that for the green segment of the industry, this represents just 4% of the overall value. (Lawn and Landscape)
#18. 45% of irrigation and green industry professionals say that labor is their primary concern for the next 12 months. 77% of those who feel this way say that there is a lack of access to quality employees in their community. (Lawn and Landscape)
#19. 33% of industry professionals say that higher wage costs are a significant concern for them in the next 36 months. Even with the wage growth issues, 94% of industry professionals say that they expect their industry to grow in the next year. (Lawn and Landscape)
#20. The revenues earned by the sale of environmentally-friendly products in the United States exceeded $40 billion in 2012. Low-carbon and environmental goods are measured globally at a value of more than $5.2 trillion. (Huffington Post)
#21. Energy efficiency technologies that include appliances, electrical motors, insulation, and industrial processes is worth about $1.2 trillion on its own. (Huffington Post)
Irrigation and Green Industry Trends and Analysis
Farmers are shifting away from gravity irrigation to rely on pressurized systems. Micro-irrigation is a rising trend, especially in the Western states, as a 62% decrease in furrowing and other gravity-based uses occurred. The actual water amounts used for irrigation are on a general trend of decline across the country, though four states in the West and much of the East have seen increases in activity with this industry.
Since 1984, the irrigated land in the eastern states has grown by more than 8.7 million acres.
The challenge for the irrigation and green industry is to meet the need of farms to irrigate more through pressurized systems while tapping less water. Continued severe drought in many regions of the U.S. (and other areas of the world) are challenging the industry to become creative with their water management. Waste is no longer acceptable.
Look for new innovative options coming from this industry in the coming years as water supplies continue to shrink. Continued environmental concerns about irrigation practices will happen as aquifer levels shrink. Those who produce the best efficiencies will see the most success in the coming years.
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