Agricultural Water and Your Safety

Key Points

  • Agricultural water is essential for growing produce and can come from a variety of sources, like surface water, ground water, or municipal water systems.
  • Contaminated agricultural water poses risks to both crops and animals, potentially causing foodborne illness in people who consume fruits or vegetables exposed to it.


Agricultural water is water that is used to grow fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables. Agricultural water can be used for irrigation, pesticide and fertilizer applications crop cooling, frost control, harvesting, and processing.

Agricultural water is primarily utilized for irrigation purposes. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), irrigation water ranks as the second largest consumer of water, closely following thermoelectric power, and nearly three times the amount used for public water supply.1

Where it's found

Agricultural water is derived from diverse sources. Municipal water systems, both in urban and rural areas, can also be used for agricultural purposes. Typical sources of agricultural water include:

Surface water

  • Rivers, streams, and irrigation ditches
  • Open canals
  • Impounded water bodies like ponds, reservoirs, and lakes

Ground water

  • Springs
  • Wells

Possible health impacts

Contaminated agricultural water can pose significant health risks to both consumers and livestock.

Potential health effects include:

  • Foodborne illnesses
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Chronic health conditions


The quality of agricultural water is important for public health. Proactive measures, such as effective planning and management of agricultural facilities, monitoring of water quality, and educating farmers about responsible irrigation practices, are essential. These preventive measures can help ensure the safety of agricultural water, protect the quality of food crops, and reduce waterborne and foodborne illnesses in the public.