AGRICULTURAL USES OF WATER
The USDA estimates that agriculture accounts for approximately 80% of the nation's water use. In agriculture, water is used to grow fruits, vegetables, and raise livestock. Water is also used in agriculture for irrigation, the application of pesticides and fertilizers, and frost control.
PROTECTION OF WATER FOR AGRICULTURAL USE
The quality of water entering an agricultural area is extremely important for the area's success. Too often, water quality is not suitable for agricultural uses. High salt concentrations limit the amount of water a plant can take up, resulting in high plant stress and decreased crop yields. High concentrations of metals also have negative effects on crop production.
To learn more about protections on agricultural water, see Utah Administrative Code R317-2-14.
HOW AGRICULTURE IMPACTS WATER QUALITY
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. Animal waste may also introduce toxic fecal coliforms which threaten public health. Grazing and other agriculture practices may intensify erosion processes, raising sediment input to nearby water sources. Increased sediment loads make drinking water treatment more difficult while also affecting fish and macroinvertebrates.
WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT AGRICULTURAL IMPACTS
Water quality is vital for the success of agriculture, and in turn, proper agriculture management practices are necessary to meet domestic water quality standards and provide for ecosystem health. Cooperation between agriculture and domestic water users is necessary to provide adequate water quality for both parties.
In America the average family uses about 400 gallons of water per day, 30 percent of that is devoted to outdoor uses. More than half of that outdoor water is used for watering lawns and gardens. Unfortunately, inefficient watering practices can waste a lot of water on gardening and lawn care. When gardening it is important to know how much water your plants need and how often they need to be watered.