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Research Shows Large-Scale Irrigation Reduces Local Precipitation


February 28, 2018

Distribution of the 1-square-kilometer cells where irrigated land in 2012 exceeded 50 percent of the cell area (blue-green dots) in Nebraska. Pink corresponds to declining annual, while yellow corresponds to declining irrigation-season (May-July) precipitation rates over the 1979-2015 period. The brownish color marks their spatial overlap.

LINCOLN - A University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher has shown widespread irrigation has resulted in a net moisture loss in Nebraska, a finding that could have worldwide water conservation implications if substantiated by further research.

Across Nebraska, runoff rates have generally dropped by a little more than a tenth of an inch per decade between 1979 and 2015, said Joe Szilagyi, a research hydrologist with the Conservation and Survey Division in the School of Natural Resources. During that same period, statewide precipitation rates have increased by about a tenth of an inch per decade...

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