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Pollution prevention: the role of agricultural irrigation technology

This week is Pollution Prevention Week! 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has dedicated this week to increasing efforts to reduce and eliminate sources of pollution to prevent damage to the environment, as well as maintain the planet’s resources and move towards sustainability. In order for pollution prevention efforts to move forward, engineers are creating and improving multiple technologies that deal with clean water.

Unfortunately, the United States may be unable to meet its water requirements in the near future because of climate change. Recent research shows that 70% of US counties could experience acute water shortages due to climate change, economic boom, and population increase. 

Freshwater is a scarce commodity on earth. In fact, of the world’s 332.5 million cubic miles of water, only 4% is fresh water. The other 96% is saline. With that in mind, Americans use over 400 billion gallons of both fresh and saline water every day! The biggest consumers of water in the United States are the electricity and agricultural industries, accounting for 80% of the daily consumption.

Because the threat to freshwater security is real, engineers have developed some practical engineering solutions that can help conserve freshwater resources. One of these solutions involves agricultural irrigation technology.

As you may know, irrigation is the primary watering method for farmers to sustain their crops.  
The agricultural industry is one of the biggest consumers of freshwater in America because crops need water to grow and thrive. In fact, research shows that crop irrigation accounts for about 40% of the freshwater used in the United States. 

What’s more, although pressure irrigation systems account for between 58% and 65% of the irrigation systems used in the United States, farmers are increasingly using precision technologies, including drones, sensor networks, and data analytics, to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Furthermore, over the past two decades, improved irrigation monitoring techniques have enabled almond growers to reduce the amount of water required to produce a pound of almonds by as much as 33%.

To learn more about the global threat to freshwater and the technologies engineers are creating to help solve these problems, check out the infographic below created by Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program

 

Photo courtesy: Ohio University