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Publication Abstract

Impacts of Irrigation and Drought on Illinois Ground-water Resources Bowman, Jean A., and Mark A. Collins, 1987  Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, IL,  ISWS RI-109    Full Text Available
This investigation is the first of three phases of a ground-water management study. In this report, effects of irrigation and drought on the ground-water resources of Illinois are examined. Irrigation water use for five soil types is estimated from a monthly water budget model on the basis of precipitation and temperature data from the last 30 years at selected weather stations across Illinois. Moisture deficits are computed for each soil type on the basis of the water requirements of a corn crop. It is assumed that irrigation is used to make up the moisture deficit in those places where irrigation systems already exist. Irrigation water use from each township with irrigated acreage is added to municipal and industrial ground-water use data and then compared to aquifer potential yields. The spatial analysis is accomplished with a statewide geographic information system. An important distinction is made between the seasonal effects of irrigation water use and the annual or long-term effects. The model is tested for its sensitivity to weather variation; seasonal water deficits are calculated by using data from extreme growing seasons and extended drought periods. The effect of increasing the amount of irrigated land by 50 percent is also considered for normal weather conditions and droughts. The effect of variable irrigation demand on ground-water resources is expressed as the ratio of ground-water use to ground-water potential yield for each township. This is done to highlight regions most susceptible to ground-water stress because of drought or increased irrigation by showing where use could exceed yield. The sensitivity of the results is not tested for variations in spatial aggregation. This will be one of the primary tasks in subsequent study phases.

Results show that irrigation is a substantial seasonal consumptive ground-water use in Illinois, with the potential for growth. However, present effects appear to be localized and highly dependent on weather conditions. Some potential for seasonal or temporary overpumpage may exist in the heavily irrigated areas during years with below-normal precipitation or during extended droughts. The aquifers being used for irrigation appear to have the ability to recover from present irrigation demands without suffering significant depletion, implying that the annual effect of irrigation is currently relatively minimal. The exception to this may be during extended drought periods, especially if widespread expansion of irrigation practices also occurs in the state. A 50 percent expansion of irrigation would appear to have surprisingly little additional impact on ground-water resources under most climatic conditions. That degree of growth around currently irrigated land would result in expanded irrigation areas still within reach of the productive, high-yielding aquifers already being pumped for irrigation. A much larger degree of irrigation expansion into areas with heavier-textured soils is possible in Illinois.

The availability of ground-water would be a major limiting factor in the speed and direction of that expansion. That kind of massive irrigation expansion is not considered in this report; however, its effects on the state’s ground water are assumed to be considerable and will be addressed in subsequent study phases.

The Chicago metropolitan area stands out as a major region of overpumpage, but not because of irrigation. Variable irrigation pumpage does appear to consistently affect several other regions, most notably parts of Mason, Kankakee, Tazewell, Lee and Whiteside Counties. The degree to which these counties are affected by irrigation depends largely on weather conditions. For all these counties, with the possible exception of Kankakee, surficial sand and gravel aquifers are the most susceptible to stress from drought and irrigation water use. Shallow bedrock aquifers may also be impacted by irrigation in parts of Kankakee County. The impact of an extended drought is likely to be more widespread and inconsistent because of the multiple effects of increased water use for irrigation and other demands, and reduced ground-water storage.



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