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Registration of Agricultural Water Use in the Susquehanna River Basin

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission has the authority to regulate water usage within the Susquehanna River Basin. If your farm or production unit is located in the Susquehanna River Basin and use a large quantity of water for crop irrigation or animal production, you may need to register your water usage with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.
Susquehanna River Basin

Susquehanna River Basin

Note: The regulations discussed herein apply only to growers within the Susquehanna River Basin.

Registration

Any person, organization or production unit in the Susquehanna River Basin that uses 100,000 gallons per day (averaged over a 30-day period) of surface and/or ground water, must register this water use with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

Agriculture is often a large user of water. Traditionally, irrigation is the largest user of water. Animals also use large quantities of water. The guidelines given in Table 1 show approximate land areas that maybe irrigated before the irrigator will typically use more than 100,000 gallons of water per day. In the case of animal production units, generally a producer will not need to register until they have in excess of about 2,500 Animal Equivalent Units. An Animal Equivalent Unit is defined as 1000 pounds of live weight of animal.

Table 1. Land areas that may be irrigated before registration is required.
Crop Irrigation
Type
Maximum Area
Irrigated with
100,000 gpd
Potatoes Sprinkler 247 acres
Apples Drip 91 acres
Peaches Drip 76 acres
Sweet corn Sprinkler 25 acres
Strawberries and Brambles Drip 107 acres
Strawberries and Brambles Sprinkler 36 acres
Tomatoes Drip 74 acres
Vegetables Drip 129 acres
Turf Sprinkler 34 acres

Consumptive Use of Water

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission also regulates the consumptive use of water, especially during periods of drought. What is 'Consumptive Use'? The Susquehanna River Basin Commission defines Consumptive Use as 'water withdrawn from ground water or surface water, via a man-made conveyance system, and not returned to the ground water or surface water of the basin thereby making it unavailable for other water uses or purposes'.

Consumptively used water is water that is not available for reuse by others in the Susquehanna River Basin. Or it can be viewed as water that is lost to the atmosphere and must be re-condensed into the liquid state before it is available for use.

Agriculture has a vested interest in consumptive use of water during low-flow periods, because crops usually need water during these periods.

Who or What Activities Consumptively Use Water?

  • The water your animals drink is returned to the environment as vapor and as waste. Neither form is very attractive, but the vaporized water is consumptively used. The liquid in the waste is not consumptively used unless it evaporates after it is discharged to the land.
  • The 9000 gallons of water taken from the soil by an acre of corn on a hot July day, used to facilitate plant growth and eventually transpired to the atmosphere through the leaves is consumptively used.

Agriculture is one of the largest consumptive users of water. It requires about 600,000 gallons of water each year to grow an acre of any crop. Though this varies from crop to crop, 600,000 gallons is a lot of water. Water infiltrates into the soil, either from rainfall or from irrigation and is removed by the crop a little each day as the crop grows. Almost all of this water is transpired to the atmosphere in the form of vapor (a small portion is stored in the plant tissues). The vapor is not available for further use until it re-condenses and falls to the earth as rain again.

In the Susquehanna River basin, all new (post 1970) consumptive uses that are greater than 20,000 gallons per day for any consecutive 30-day period are subject to the Susquehanna River Basin Commissions consumptive use make-up regulation. The make-up regulation essentially says that during periods of 'low flow', defined as stream flow that is less than the 7-day average flow that has a 10 percent chance of occurring in any year, a consumptive user is required to reduce their water use to less than 20,000 gallons per day, or replace the consumptive use from water stored at high flows. Currently agriculture is exempted from the Susquehanna River Basin Commissions consumptive use restrictions.

Are you using more than 100,000 gallons of water per day? Do you anticipate starting a large water use project such as irrigation? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you need to contact the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. The Susquehanna River Basin Commission has the authority to regulate water usage within their jurisdiction. They are also very helpful in assisting you with the planning of large water use projects. If you have questions, please contact:

Susquehanna River Basin Commission
1721 North Front Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
717-238-0425

or your county extension staff.

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Article Details

Title

Registration of Agricultural Water Use in the Susquehanna River Basin

Code

F200

This publication is available in alternative media on request.

Contact Information

Albert Jarrett
  • Professor Emeritus
Email:
Phone: 814-238-0195