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Irrigation Water Management and Tailwater Recovery

Agricultural water supPete Hunter utilizes a large pump to move water stored in a 25 acres reservoir to his crop irrigation system.ply is emerging as a critical natural resource issue and is the Nation’s largest water user. Irrigated agriculture is essential to grow crops and accounts for approximately 80 percent of the country’s annual water consumption.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is assisting Mississippi farmers by providing Irrigation Water Management (IWM) programs that conserve farm irrigation water supplies, reducing the consumption of groundwater.



The Tailwater Recovery System (TWR) is an IWM system that re-uses irrigation and storm water runoff on the farm.  TWR decreases groundwater pumping for crop irrigation by allowing farmers to capture and store water from storms and irrigation run off in a reservoir.  The captured water will then be redistributed in the farm irrigation system. 


Pump used to push water into Reservoir


The TWR allows farmers to re-use and re-disperse captured water back onto crops, minimizing the amount of groundwater pumped form the water table.  Captured rain water and irrigation run-off from ditches is relocated to a nearby reservoir. When needed, a pumping system and pipeline push the tailwater from the reservoir into the farm irrigation system for re-distribution to targeted fields.

By allowing re-use of irrigation water, a tailwater recovery system can improve irrigation efficiency and use less groundwater or surface water.   TWR can reduce groundwater pumping by 25% and reduce total pumping costs.


Like all irrigation system components, a tailwater recovery system requires maintenance for continued smooth operation. In addition to routine inspection, testing, and maintenance of pipelines, pumping plant components, and other mechanical components, the reservoir will require periodic removal of sediment. A TWR reservoir can range in size from 1 acre to 12 acres and will need sediment removed every 5 to 10 years. The soil trapped in the reservoir can be used to replace soil lost from the top of surface-irrigated fields.

In Mississippi, a TWR reservoir is part of the 436 Irrigation Storage Reservoir conservation practice. Pumping plants are within the 533 practice and underground lines are part of practice 430.