North Carolina farmers will have the opportunity to document agriculture-related water use through a survey by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The department’s Agricultural Statistics Division will begin the survey in January in response to legislation passed by the General Assembly last summer. The legislation requires the division to compile a yearly survey of water use by farmers who withdraw 10,000 gallons of water per day from groundwater or surface water.

Farmers will be asked to complete a form documenting their agricultural water use for 2008. Information about individual farms will be kept confidential.

“This survey is extremely important because basic water use information for agriculture is limited in most areas of the state,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We are encouraging farmers to participate so we can collect good, accurate data.”

Herb Vanderberry, state director of agricultural statistics, said public perception has been that farmers use an excessive amount of water. But other regional surveys have shown that agricultural water use is relatively small in comparison with industrial and other non-agricultural water consumption.

Troxler said the survey could clear up a lot of misperceptions about the amount of water farmers use. “The survey also will give us a good picture of how much water farmers need, so that if we find ourselves in another drought, we can make the case for making sure farmers aren’t unfairly targeted,” he said.

Survey forms will begin arriving in mailboxes in January, and results should be ready by July 1. Information about the survey is online at www.ncagr.gov/water.