Farm and Ranch Irrigation

The Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey provides detailed data relating to on-farm irrigation activities for use in preparing a wide variety of water-related programs, economic models, legislative initiatives, market analysis, and feasibility studies. FRIS provides the only data that are complete, consistent, and accurate enough to be used for benchmarking on-farm irrigation measures over time.

The FRIS is a follow on survey of the census of agriculture. The target population is all farms and ranches in the 50 states reporting irrigated land in the preceding census of agriculture, excluding horticultural specialty, institutional, experimental, and research farms. The data are also tabulated by 20 Water Resource Areas (WRA), the 2-digit Hydrologic Unit Code.


The Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey publication is released in November of the survey year. It is part of a series of publications from the census of agriculture. It is labeled Volume 3, Special Studies Part 1. Farm counts and totals are published by state, WRA, and a U.S. total.

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Program Content

The FRIS covers acres irrigated by land use categories, acres and yields of irrigated crops, quantity of water applied and method of application to selected crops, acres irrigated and quantity of water used by source, acres irrigated by type of water distribution system, and number of irrigation wells and pumps. Economic measures included in FRIS include cost of water purchased, capital expenditures, irrigation maintenance and energy costs, and measurement of factors which irrigators use to judge when to irrigate.


Several USDA agencies use the data for program development and administration. The Economic Research Service (ERS) relies on these data for providing essential data in their economic models which are used to analyze the impacts of proposed farm policies and regulation. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) uses these data in appraising the status and condition of water and water use trends on non-federal lands. They are also using these data to plan and evaluate the national water-conservation program.

Other federal and state governmental units make use of the data. The United States Geological Survey is using these data for preparing national water summaries used by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies developing water-related programs. The Bureau of Reclamation of the United States Department of the Interior relies on these data for conducting feasibility studies of irrigation projects. Both the United States Congress and State legislative bodies are using the data for formulating and assessing natural resource legislation. State water resource agencies use the survey results for developing programs and preparing descriptive information.

Planning agencies are using information regarding water supplies and water use by state and water resource area for evaluating groundwater withdrawals, especially the depletion of groundwater reserves in the major irrigation areas. Irrigation system manufacturers and related businesses are using these data for monitoring trends in equipment use, irrigation expansions, and other market production related activities. Land Grant universities and other research organizations are using these data for studying irrigation technology development and adopting them to agricultural productivity.

Farmers and ranchers are using the cost-and-return data for determining the feasibility of investing in irrigation systems.


The FRIS is done every five years in the year following the census of agriculture.


The reference period is the calendar year preceding the survey period. A sample of farms reporting irrigated acres is systematically selected covering about 35 percent of the total acres irrigated. A stratified sample design is employed which allows larger farms to be more heavily sampled. Data are collected by mail out/mail back with a telephone follow up of farms not responding. In some special cases, personal visits are made to maximize response. Sample weights of the reporting farms are adjusted to account for nonresponse.

Related Programs

Census of Agriculture
Census of Horticultural Specialties
Census of Aquaculture

Last Modified: 05/04/2018