MORGAN, Ga. (AP) -- A state water management plan, as well as new technology, may help ensure that farmers have enough water to pump on their land, a University of Georgia irrigation specialist says.

"The availability of water is going to continue to be one of our most pressing issues," Kerry Harrison, an adviser on irrigation issues, said Friday.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is developing a state water management plan that will consider the needs of municipalities and industries as well as farmers who need water to keep crops healthy during Georgia's long, hot summers.

Harrison said technology already being used by a few farmers can help stretch the supply, and cost-sharing funds from both the federal and state governments will be available to help others modernize.

The technology includes special sprayers that apply varying amounts of water, depending on the temperature and dryness of the soil.

"Technology is going to be that first step in conservation," Harrison said. "If everybody saves a little, then that water is available to others."

Wireless networking, such as a 100-square-mile system planned around the rural southwest Georgia town of Morgan, may help save water by allowing farmers to monitor irrigation systems using video cameras and GPS, said Harrison, who was on hand Thursday for the network announcement.

Harrison recently released a university farm survey that indicates the installation of irrigation systems has slowed.

Most suitable cropland is irrigated anyway, but some of the slower growth also may be due to state moratoriums on new farm wells in coastal Georgia and along the Flint River Basin, he said.

The university has been conducting the irrigation surveys since 1970, when Georgia had 145,000 irrigated acres. The state's irrigation blitz occurred between 1977 to 1980, when the acreage jumped from 592,000 to nearly 1 million.

The latest survey shows the state with nearly 1.5 million irrigated acres, putting Georgia among the top six or seven states in the nation that rely on sprinkler systems as opposed to surface watering, Harrison said.

Georgia probably won't ever irrigate all cropland, estimated at between 3.5 million and 4 million acres, because some of it is unsuitable, Harrison said.

Irrigation has allowed Georgia farmers to diversify and is largely responsible for the growth of the state's $465 million vegetable industry and its $1.6 billion turf industry.

"It allows for more crop diversity," Harrison said. "A guy is not going to grow vegetables or turf, unless he can irrigate."

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0

Trending Video

Recommended for you