In Kansas, Seaboard Farms has received state regulatory approval to expand the number of pigs at the grow-finish sites. Included in the approval was notification that Seaboard had purchased irrigation water rights to furnish the water needs of the pigs associated with the expansion. Several neighbors were quoted as having concerns that the increase in pig inventories would result in their water wells running dry, etc.
As an extension swine specialist in Nebraska I ran into this concern several times during the permit process for producers. My conclusion at the time was that pork production is not a large user of water when compared to irrigated agriculture.
In the case of the Seaboard permit, the approval was for an increase in inventory to 198,000 pigs. If we assume these pigs are housed in facilities with nipple drinkers, the average daily water usage per pig during the grow-finish period will be 1.5 gal/pig/day. Now pigs aren’t in the facility for 365 days per year. There are periods of time when the facility is empty and no drinking water is used. However, water is used for cleaning, etc. Cleaning water usage generally is similar to drinking water usage so I’ll use 1.5 gal/d/pig space times 365 days per year to estimate total water needs for the Seaboard site.