University of California

Irrigation shifts toward sprinklers, drip and microsprinklers


Susan Edinger-Marshall
John Letey

Authors Affiliations

S. Edinger-Marshall was formerly Staff Research Associate, Water Quality Program, Centers for Water and Wildlands Resources, and is presently a Lecturer in Natural Resources at Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA; J. Letey is Professor of Soil Physics, Department of Soil and Environmental Sciences, UC Riverside, Associate Director of the Centers for Water and Wildlands Resources, State Water Quality Coordinator for UCCE, and coordinator of the UC Salinity and Drainage Program/Prosser Trust.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 51(3):38-40. DOI:10.3733/ca.v051n03p38. May 1997.

PDF of full article, Cite this article


From 1972 to 1995, gravity irrigation (flood, furrow and so on) has decreased by about 20% on an acreage basis, while sprinkler irrigation has increased by about 8% and microirrigation, including drip and microsprinklers, has increased by about 12%. These statewide estimates exclude rice acreage and are based on surveys commissioned by the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Irrigation districts, UCCE farm advisors and specialists, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) were other sources of information. Different irrigation methods have different implications for crop yield, water conservation and water-quality protection. With the advent of chemigation and fertigation, future surveys should collect information about both irrigation and associated agricultural chemical practices.


Census of Agriculture. Volume 3, Related Surveys.. Part 1, “Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (1988).” (AC87-RS-1) 1987.

Census of Agriculture. Volume 3, Related Surveys.. Part 1, “Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (1994).” (AC92-RS-1) 1992.

Dornbusch & Co. Survey of Irrigated Farm Operations: Central Valley of California.. Conducted for the California Department of Water Resources. By Jason Bass, James P. Merchant and Leslie Lipper, in association with the California Agricultural Statistics Service, Richard Howitt (UC Davis) and David Zilberman (UC Berkeley) December, 1995.

Nottenkamper M, Criollo MG, Kasapligil D, Wall K, Saavedra M. Summary Report: 1996 Ground water extraction data and agricultural water conservation practices.. Monterey County Water Resources Agency, P.O. Box 930, Salinas CA 93902-0930 1996.

Snyder RL, Plas M, Grieshop J. “Irrigation methods used in California in 1991: A grower's survey.”. ASCE. J. Irrig. & Drain. Eng. 1996. 122(4):259-62. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9437(1996)122:4(259) https://doi.org/doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9437(1996)122:4(259) PubMed PMID: 18371460 PubMed PMID: 18370446 PubMed PMID: 18367707 PubMed PMID: 18367314 PubMed PMID: 18366106 PubMed PMID: 18366036 PubMed PMID: 18365925 PubMed PMID: 18364102 PubMed PMID: 18363093 PubMed PMID: 18362710 PubMed PMID: 18361628 PubMed PMID: 18361627 PubMed PMID: 18361626 PubMed PMID: 18361625 PubMed PMID: 18361624 PubMed PMID: 18360050 PubMed PMID: 18358593 PubMed PMID: 18358575 PubMed PMID: 18358496 PubMed PMID: 18355867

Stewart JI. (Water Science and Engineering Section, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, UC Davis). Irrigation in California: A Report to the State Water Resources Control Board. 1975.

Wagner RJ. (Senior Land Use Analyst, Water Use Unit). Irrigation Methods in California: An Update. State of California, Department of Water Resources, Division of Planning. Prepared under the direction of Glenn Sawyer, in cooperation with Robert M. Hagan 1983.

Edinger-Marshall S, Letey J. 1997. Irrigation shifts toward sprinklers, drip and microsprinklers. Hilgardia 51(3):38-40. DOI:10.3733/ca.v051n03p38
Webmaster Email: wsuckow@ucanr.edu