Irrigation water requirements - Is water available in the quantities needed to irrigate? In Michigan and Indiana evaporation and plant water use from the soil are between 0.25” and 0.30” for several days each summer, systems that can provide 5 gal/acre irrigated will meet the 0.25”/day. Seven gal/acre irrigated is needed to provide 0.30” water requirements. This capacity will be require 24 hours per day 7 days per week continued pumping in time of drought
Ground water availability - Irrigation is not profitable without a reliable and adequate source of water. Nearby large volume irrigation, municipal or industrial wells are an excellent source of water availability. Well drillers familiar with large volume wells in your area are also excellent resources. Michigan has available groundwater mapping tools that can help evaluate potential water withdrawal sites.
Surface water availability - Is surface water available in dependable large volumes? Surface water quantities need to be available at the time of maximum irrigation, often late July early August. This is the season the surface waters are near their lowest. Make sure to evaluate available flow the summer before you start irrigating. In most areas you may not delete stream flow to the extent that it negatively impacts neighbors or the environment. If not, consider part of the water of the states, drainage ditches flow, may be depleted. Remember there can be major contamination challenges impacting food safety in using surface water for vegetable irrigation and cooling.
Water rights and regulation - Make sure you understand your rights and obligation to use water in your State. Example: Michigan operates as a riparian state for surface water use allowing only the property with legal description adjacent to the surface water to receive the water, but well water may be transfer between properties. For information on Michigan water rights see this guide produced by Michigan State University (MSU) Extension. Indiana information on groundwater availability can be found at Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources website.
Water registration - Irrigation water use almost always is considered a large volume water use (capacity to pump > 70 gal. /min). In both Indiana and Michigan new installations require a registration. In Indiana this is handled by Indiana DNR.
In Michigan you will need to work through the Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool to determine if your proposed water use is likely to cause a negative environmental impact. At the end of the process you will either be able to register online or may be required to request a site specific review by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). MDEQ site specific reviews may result in allocation of the water resulting in registration or the opportunity to bring together all large volume water users in the watershed to negotiate reducing use by existing water users to allow allocations for a new water use. For information on Michigan’s water use registration process review irrigation fact sheet #7. Indiana information on groundwater availability can be found at Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources website.