How does agriculture help water quality


What farming techniques help to improve the quality of water?

  • Crops that cover the ground. Cover crops’ roots create channels in the soil, which improve the soil’s ability to absorb…
  • Waterway with Grass. Grassed Waterway is a method of repurposing marginal lands to improve runoff filtration and prevent…

Farmers apply nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium in the form of chemical fertilizers, manure, and sludge. They may also grow legumes and leave crop residues to enhance production. When these sources exceed plant needs, or are applied just before it rains, nutrients can wash into aquatic ecosystems.


What are the uses of water in agriculture?

Typical sources of agricultural water include:

  • Surface water Rivers, streams, and irrigation ditches Open canals Impounded water such as ponds, reservoirs, and lakes
  • Groundwater from wells
  • Rainwater Locally collected water such as cisterns and rain barrels

Is the biggest use of water for agriculture?

Total water use in Nebraska breaks down to approximately 81 percent groundwater irrigation, 13 percent surface water irrigation, 4 percent domestic water uses. The remaining 2 percent comprises other uses such as livestock, industrial, and mining.

How much water is used for agriculture?

As previously mentioned, 70% of the world’s water is used for agriculture annually. That’s over 2 quadrillion gallons of water, enough to cover the entire United States in 2 feet of water. To understand how we use most of this precious resource we need to understand how it is allocated.

Does agriculture use large amounts of water for irrigation?

Agriculture is a major user of ground and surface water in the United States, and irrigation has enhanced both the productivity and profitability of the agricultural sector. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, farms with some form of irrigation accounted for more than 54 percent of the total value of U.S. crop sales, while irrigated land accounted for less than 20 percent of harvested …


What agricultural practices improve water quality?

Vegetative and Tillage Practices Conservation tillage is a way to reduce the amounts of sediment and nutrients that move into water from agricultural lands. Two types of conservation tillage are minimum tillage and no-tillage.

How does agriculture provide water?

Irrigation is the process used by farmers to water their crops. They use large sprinkler heads to cover their fields and shower their crops in intervals. Through this process of irrigation, about half of the water used will be evaporated, run off the field, or get lost in transit.

How does agricultural land use affect water quality?

Different types of land use and land cover affect the quality of water. Agricultural and household fertilizers have different chemicals within them, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. These chemicals can potentially run off into nearby water sources such as groundwater, streams and larger bodies of water.

What is the relationship between water and agriculture?

Water is a critical input for agricultural production and plays an important role in food security. Irrigated agriculture represents 20 percent of the total cultivated land and contributes 40 percent of the total food produced worldwide.

How do agricultural activities affect water quality and what are ways to ensure that the negative impact is lessened?

Agricultural practices may also have negative impacts on water quality. Improper agricultural methods may elevate concentrations of nutrients, fecal coliforms, and sediment loads. Increased nutrient loading from animal waste can lead to eutrophication of water bodies which may eventually damage aquatic ecosystems.

How do land use affect water quality?

All land uses have an effect on water quality, whether positive or negative. In forests and other areas with good vegetation cover and little disturbance from humans, most rainfall soaks into the soil rather than running off the ground, stream flows are fairly steady, and water quality is good.

How agricultural runoff affect water quality?

Pesticide runoff to streams can pose risks to aquatic life, fish-eating wildlife, and drinking water supplies. Pollutants from agricultural operations can also enter groundwater and degrade sources of drinking water. Human health impacts might occur as a result.

Is agricultural water safe to drink?

We expect this to be the safest type of water because it is required by law to meet the highest chemical and microbiological drinking water standards, and it is tested regularly to ensure that it is consistently safe to drink.

Where Does Agricultural Water Come From?

Some of the water that farms use for irrigation comes from rivers and streams, either through surface or borehole extraction. This is largely because peak demands for agricultural irrigation exceed what the public mains supply can provide.

The Importance of Good Water Quality

Effective and safe uses of water in agriculture result in good crop yields and livestock production. But poor quality of water can have a significant negative impact on crop growing, animal welfare and health, and, ultimately, economic performance.

Water for Livestock

Animals need water for their healthy development and growth. Basically, the quality of end products, such as meat and milk, depends on the quality of animal feed, including water.

Water for Plants and Crops

Water quality is as essential for plants and crops as it is for livestock.

How Should You Treat Agricultural Water?

It is important to disinfect the water used in agriculture. This will help to protect the quality of plants and crops, and protect livestock from disease and illness.

What Disinfectant Can You Apply to Agricultural Water?

You want the disinfectant you use to be as effective as possible, but also to be safe for use with livestock.

How does agricultural pollution occur?

Agricultural pollution can originate from either a point source (e.g. from a slurry store) or diffusely (e.g. run off from larger areas of farmland). As diffuse pollution can arise from the contributions of many smaller sources (e.g. fields on many farms), it is often difficult to attribute it to a specific sector or activity and the impacts of pollution can occur some distance from the source, for example, as nutrient levels increase downstream. One reason for the difficulty in attributing the source of pollution is that the processes by which nutrients and pollutants leave the land are complex, involving an interaction between locality (e.g. slope, rainfall, soil type), management (ploughing, input regimes, field margin management etc.) and a time lag. Fully managing farming’s impacts on water quality requires more in-depth understanding of field-management-water interactions in order to inform how to adapt farming to mitigate its impacts, without impairing farm business.

What is catchment management?

4.18 Catchment management refers to the concept of managing the land by intervening at appropriate places upstream to ensure that downstream impacts are mitigated. This is both a scientific challenge and a joint social and economic one given that different actors may be unaware, economically unable or disinterested in changing behaviour to reduce issues elsewhere. The complexities of water use and the social value of water and water bodies are little understood beyond experts. Recent high-level reports have noted that there is a challenge we need to tackle to raise public awareness of the wider value of water (e.g.


Irrigation canals frequently serve as sources for livestock drinking water but other sources, including poor quality supplies, are often used.


In the arid and semi-arid regions of the world, livestock commonly use poor or marginal quality drinking water for several months of the year. These supplies originate from small wells, canals, streams or ‘water holes’, only the better of which are also used for irrigation.


There are a number of substances or toxic ions which cause toxicity in animals. These sometimes occur naturally in water, but more frequently they are a result of man’s activities, including waste disposal. Toxic substances in natural water are usually at concentrations well below the toxic levels.



  • Irrigated agriculture is dependent on an adequate water supply ofusable quality. Water quality concerns have often been neglectedbecause good quality water supplies have been plentigul and readilyavailable. This situation is now changing in many areas. Intensive useof nearly all good quality supplies means that new irrigation projectsand old projec…

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Water Quality Problems

  • Water used for irrigation can vary greatly in quality dependingupon type and quantity of dissolved salts. Salts are present in irrigation water in relatively small but significant amounts. They originate from dissolution or weathering of the rocks and soil, includingdissolution of lime, gypsum and other slowly dissolved soil minerals.These salts are carried with the water to where…

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Approach to Evaluating Water Quality

  • The prediction that a water quality-related problem will occurrequires evaluation of the potential of the water to create soil conditions that may restrict its use or that may require the use of specialmanagement techniques to maintain acceptable yields. There are a numberof procedures available for this evaluation but regardless of which oneis used, emphasis should focus on relati…

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Water Quality Guidelines

  • Guidelines for evaluation of water quality for irrigation aregiven in Table 1. They emphasize the long-term influence of waterquality on crop production, soil conditions and farm management, andare presented in the same format as in the 1976 edition but are updatedto include recent research results. This format is similar to that ofthe 1974 University of California Committee of …

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