USDA's 2008 Farm and Ranch Survey has found that farmers and ranchers are now irrigating 54.9 million acres of farmland across the United States, an increase of nearly 5% since 2003. Despite the changes in application methods, equipment in general continues to be one of the leading expenses of irrigation. In 2008, farmers and ranchers spent $2.1 billion on expenses related to irrigation equipment, facilities, land improvements and computer technology.
The irrigation report also provides insight into farmers' energy and water conservation practices. Between 2003 and 2008, a total of 74,846 farms implemented changes in equipment or management practices that reduced energy use and/or conserved water. Nearly 46% of these farms reported reduced energy cost and 59% reported a reduction in the amount of water applied.
The survey results show a continuing trend towards more efficient irrigation methods as farmers reported irrigating 15% more acres with sprinkler systems and 5% less with gravity irrigation. And for the first time, the National Agricultural Statics Service gathered information on the use of recycled and reclaimed water. A total of 9,843 farms reported using recycled water and 3,205 used reclaimed water.