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    Received: Feb 04, 2014
    Published: May 23, 2014


    * Corresponding author(s): Jerry.hatfield@ars.usda.gov
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doi:10.2134/agronj14.0064

Environmental Impact of Water Use in Agriculture

  1. Jerry L. Hatfield *
  1. National Lab. for Agriculture and the Environment, Ames, IA 50011

Abstract

Agriculture is an important component of the hydrologic cycle and the use of water in agricultural production is necessary to feed the world’s population and provide ecosystem services. As the population increases there is more concern about the potential role of agriculture on environmental quality and the role water management has on environmental quality. Water use by agricultural systems through evapotranspiration effects both the plant and the surrounding microclimate and the modification of the microclimate is a major environmental impact from agricultural water use. Sources of water for agriculture are from direct use of precipitation and indirect through irrigation from either surface or groundwater resources. Irrigation has an effect on the hydrologic cycle and alters groundwater recharge and the development of the infrastructure to support irrigation disrupts the landscape with effects extending beyond agriculture into wildlife habitat and wetlands. The environmental impacts of water use in agriculture range from onsite effects within the field to the offsite impacts from surface runoff and chemical transport. Our challenge is to understand that agriculture is part of the hydrologic cycle and develop methods which can reduce the environmental impact.

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