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Geospatial compilation and digital map of centerpivot irrigated areas in the mid-Atlantic region, United States

May 5, 2015

To evaluate water availability within the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the University of Delaware Agricultural Extension, created a dataset that maps the number of acres under center-pivot irrigation in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain study area. For this study, the extent of the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain falls within areas of the States of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. The irrigation dataset maps about 271,900 acres operated primarily under center-pivot irrigation in 57 counties. Manual digitizing was performed against aerial imagery in a process where operators used observable center-pivot irrigation signatures—such as irrigation arms, concentric wheel paths through cropped areas, and differential colors—to identify and map irrigated areas. The aerial imagery used for digitizing came from a variety of sources and seasons. The imagery contained a variety of spatial resolutions and included online imagery from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Imagery Program, Microsoft Bing Maps, and the Google Maps mapping service. The dates of the source images ranged from 2010 to 2012 for the U.S. Department of Agriculture imagery, whereas maps from the other mapping services were from 2013.

Most of the irrigation in the study area is on the Delmarva Peninsula, where about 75 percent of the total acreage was delineated and where corn and soy bean are the main crops. The methods used to develop this dataset focused primarily on identifying center-pivot irrigation systems. In some instances (such as in in Suffolk County, New York), irrigated rectangular fields were observed through the aerial imagery, and these were included within the dataset. Other irrigation methods included subsurface drip and flood irrigation, which are commonly used on vegetable crops such as peppers and tomatoes and forage crops such as alfalfa in parts the western United States. Some fruit and nursery stock crops also use subsurface drip and flood irrigation. Drip irrigation is especially apparent in New Jersey where large plantings of truck crops are common. Subsurface drip and flood irrigation methods were not accounted for in this dataset. The U.S. Geological Survey collected these data to enhance the understanding of irrigation water demand and associated groundwater withdrawals for the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain.

The digitized acreage totals were compared with the irrigation estimates provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture farm and ranch irrigation survey, which is the most comprehensive source of information on irrigation water use within the agricultural industry. This survey collects information on a wide range of topics, including the amount of water used, total acres irrigated, crop specific data, and even energy costs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture samples data for both entire States and individual counties.

Publication Year 2015
Title Geospatial compilation and digital map of centerpivot irrigated areas in the mid-Atlantic region, United States
DOI 10.3133/ds932
Authors Jason S. Finkelstein, Mark R. Nardi
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Data Series
Series Number 932
Index ID ds932
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New York Water Science Center