Georgia Water Science Center

USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 00-4292


This report is available online in pdf format (3 MB): USGS WRIR 00-4292 (Opens the PDF file in a new window. )

Julia L. Fanning, Gregory E. Schwarz, and William C. Lewis

U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 00-4292, 32 pages (Published 2001)


Drawing of an irrigation ststem. A benchmark irrigation monitoring network of farms located in a 32-county area in southwestern Georgia was established in 1995 to improve estimates of irrigation water use. A stratified random sample of 500 permitted irrigators was selected from a data base—maintained by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Environmental Protection Division, Water Resources Management Branch—to obtain 180 voluntary participants in the study area. Site-specific irrigation data were collected at each farm using running-time totalizers and noninvasive flowmeters.

Data were collected and compiled for 50 farms for 1995 and 130 additional farms for the 1996 growing season—a total of 180 farms. Irrigation data collected during the 1996 growing season were compiled for 180 benchmark farms and used to develop a statistical model to estimate irrigation water use in 32 counties in southwestern Georgia. The estimates derived were developed from using a statistical approach know as “bootstrap analysis” that allows for the estimation of precision.

Five model components—whether-to-irrigate, acres irrigated, crop selected, seasonal-irrigation scheduling, and the amount of irrigation applied—compose the irrigation model and were developed to reflect patterns in the data collected at Benchmark Farms Study area sites.

The model estimated that peak irrigation for all counties in the study area occurred during July with significant irrigation also occurring during May, June, and August. Irwin and Tift were the most irrigated and Schley and Houston were the least irrigated counties in the study area. High irrigation intensity primarily was located along the eastern border of the study area; whereas, low irrigation intensity was located in the southwestern quadrant where ground water was the dominant irrigation source. Crop-level estimates showed sizable variations across crops and considerable uncertainty for all crops other than peanuts and pecans. Counties having the most irrigated acres showed higher variations in annual irrigation than counties having the least irrigated acres.

The Benchmark Farms Study model estimates were higher than previous irrigation estimates, with 20 percent of the bias a result of underestimating irrigation acreage in earlier studies. Model estimates showed evidence of an upward bias of about 15 percent with the likely cause being a misrepresented inches-applied model. A better understanding of the causes of bias in the model could be determined with a larger irrigation sample size and increased substantially by automating the reporting of monthly totalizer amounts.




Purpose and scope

Previous investigations


Methods of investigation

Criteria for selecting a Benchmark Farms Study site

Establishment of a Benchmark Farms Study site

Field equipment

Equipment problems

Irrigation water-use data for southwestern Georgia

Data collection and compilation

Modeling irrigation water-use data

Model results

Comparison of model results to estimates based on sampling and other methods

Summary and conclusions

References cited

Appendix A—Benchmark Farms Study pamphlet, cards, and forms

Appendix B—Irrigation water use in southwestern Georgia description of sampling methodology

Appendix C—1995 Flowmeter-test description and brief analysis

Appendix D—Statistical analysis of irrigation water-use data in southwestern Georgia

Model Calibration

Model Prediction



This report is available online in pdf format (3 MB): USGS WRIR 00-4292 (Opens the PDF file in a new window. )
To view the PDF document, you need the Adobe Acrobat® Reader installed on your computer. (A free copy of the Acrobat® Reader may be downloaded from Adobe Systems Incorporated.)

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