Does efficient irrigation technology preserve groundwater? A new GAO report says the answer is probably no.

Note: This story is embargoed for republication until Nov. 24, 2019

Efficient irrigation may produce more crops, but it doesn’t appear to preserve groundwater, according to a federal report released this week. Decades of irrigation has already depleted aquifers that many irrigated farms rely on, according to the report from the Government Accountability Office, and efficient systems appear to not help. Minus a few exceptions, GAO researchers found “there is no change in the amount of water farmers apply to a field with more efficient technology,” according to the Nov. 12 report.

Lack of irrigation reporting leaves uncertain future for Illinois groundwater

Almost 1,000 pivots have been installed in counties statewide in the past four years as a result of higher crop prices and the demand of seed corn companies, an almost 20 percent increase in overall irrigation that equals the use of more than half a million people each year.

Experts foresee shortages as the nation’s freshwater supply dwindles

A government report from last month revealed that 40 out of 50 state water managers expect freshwater shortages within the next decade. As a result, farms and other agriculture producers who depend on irrigation may be challenged moving forward. According to federal studies, irrigation withdrawals and uses more water than anything else each year.