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In irrigation pivot on a field in Burley, Idaho with wind turbines in the background. Near W 500 S and S 400 W streets. 10/8/2018 Photo by Kirsten Strough

Irrigation - Engineering

Irrigation is the process of bringing water to land through an artificial means.

Farmers use irrigation to assist in the growing of crops through one of the following methods: surface (flood), sprinkler (center pivot, lateral move), subirrigation, or localized (micro, drip). The method of irrigation is dependent on several factors.

Irrigation Water Management (IWM) is the process of determining and controlling the volume, frequency, and application rate of irrigation water in a planned, efficient manner. 

The following document may require Adobe Reader (PDF files),  Word Viewer (DOC files), or Excel Viewer (XLS files).

North Dakota Planning Guides

Irrigation Tools used in North Dakota

IWR - Irrigation Water Requirements

Irrigation Water Requirements (IWR) is a Windows program developed specifically for the development of Consumptive Use Table for the NRCS Irrigation Guide.  IWR uses the FAO Radiation method, the FAO Temperature method or the Blainey- Criddle method depending on the climate information that is available.


This procedure was developed to approximate or quantify approximate water conservation through changes made to irrigation systems or through management. The program provides a standardized means of documenting change for various cost share programs and planning efforts. The model has potential application as a tool for field and watershed scale quantification of irrigation changes and the impact to water quality.  Model application is aimed at field office level for planners and technicians.

CPED - Center Pivot Evaluation and Design

Center Pivot Evaluation and Design is a Windows program for assessment of center pivot performance. The program simulates the water distribution under a center pivot from various commercial nozzles as well as performs an evaluation from catch can data. This scientific model was adapted by Beccard and Heermann to include the effect of topographic differences in the resulting application depths along the radii of the center pivot in non level fields. Included are pump and well characteristics specific to the system.


Center pivot Nozzling and surface storage program developed by the University of Nebraska was developed to estimate the potential for runoff and resulting economic impact from reducing the operating pressure of a sprinkler package. The runoff potential is determined based on the soil type, field slope, nozzle wetted diameter, system flow rate, and storage residue. NRCS personnel should contact local CTS for installation.

Soil Suitability

In the 1980's (and updated in 2003) many government agencies in North Dakota worked together to classify soil for irrigation which allowed for consistent information to the public.  Soils were classified into 3 groups:  irrigable, non-irrigable, and conditional.

In general the classifications mean:

  • Irrigable soils can be irrigated with suitable quality water under most circumstances. Typically, soils are field verified during the planning stage to confirm mapping.

  • Conditional soils may be irrigated, depending on water quality and soil properties, and may require a higher level of management. EQIP assistance on conditional soils requires approval of the North Dakota State Soil Scientist.

  • Non-irrigable soils should not be irrigated.  EQIP assistance on non-irrigable soils requires approval of the North Dakota State Soil Scientist.

The North Dakota State Water Commission used Geographic Information System software to apply the irrigation classifications to digitized soil survey information, creating a color coded map which can be used to determine the classification of a mapped soil - which is useful during the planning of an irrigation system.  

State Water Commission MapService

Instructions on using the MapService