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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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National Program 201: Water Resource Management
Program Summary:
Program Component Definitions
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Agricultural Watershed Management.  This component fosters research on weather and climate characterization, hydrologic processes and watershed characteristics, and watershed management. That research focuses on the interaction between water availability and use and the environment and agricultural production on irrigated croplands, rainfed croplands, and grazinglands at field, farm, and watershed scales.  Research on watershed management will promote more effective use of precipitation, optional allocation and improved assessment of available water resources, and hydraulic advances in integrated ecosystem management. Research also will focus on improving the hydraulic efficiency and safety of structures used to store and regulate water flows.  Water data bases will be developed from information collected on the long-term agricultural watersheds. Models and decision support systems will be developed to optimize the allocation and use of available water resources, resolve conflicts among competing demands, and provide water resource managers with science-based technologies to establish sound programs and policies.

Irrigation and Drainage Management.   Existing and future water resources for irrigation are projected to decline even more. Therefore, improved irrigation and drainage practices become increasingly important to enhance water quality, conserve water, and sustain American food production for strategic national economic and social benefits.  Innovative irrigation and drainage techniques and management are required that increase the cost-effectiveness of crop production, improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, reuse waste water, and reduce energy requirements while enhancing and sustaining crop production and water use efficiency. Advanced technologies, such as precision irrigation, site-specific management, remote sensing, and decision support systems, are needed to address the water quantity and quality problems in irrigated agriculture. Sustainable irrigation and drainage systems are needed in arid and humid areas to minimize environmental impacts on agricultural and urban sectors.  Specific water resource data bases will be developed for irrigation and drainage practices and management systems.

Water Quality Protection and Management.   New and improved strategies are needed to reduce water contamination from agricultural lands. Improved technologies are required to manage agricultural chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) and waste waters (agricultural, municipal, and industrial effluent waters) and to transfer specific farming management systems from one geographical area to another.  Field practices will be developed to reduce impacts of nutrients, pesticides and other synthetic chemicals, pathogens and other bacterial contaminants, sediments, salts, trace elements, and water temperature in surface waters and groundwaters.  Monitoring and research efforts will be increased to protect coastal ecosystems and implement Total Maximum Daily Load guidelines for nonpoint source water quality improvements. New management practices and management systems will be developed that expand upon the Management Systems Evaluation Areas and Agricultural Systems for Environmental Quality sites.  Models and decision support systems will be developed that optimize strategies to manage water resources; to resolve conflict among competing water demands when the supplies are limited; and to determine the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of proposed water, nutrient, and pesticide management programs and policies. Water data bases will be developed to demonstrate on-farm and off-site opportunities to improve water quality.  

Program Summary:
Projected Outcomes
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  • Reliable characterizations of agricultural watersheds that determine the temporal and spatial variability of important hydrologic processes
  • Safer and more cost-effective measures to protect farms, ranches, and rural communities from ravages of floods and droughts, and from rising demands on the Nation's limited water resources
  • Improved technologies to better manage riparian areas, wetlands, aquatic ecosystems, and stream corridors for the protection of agricultural watershed health and prevention of water quality degradation
  • Improved structures and channels to store and regulate water supplies for flood control, water conservation, and cost-effective water reuse
  • Improved strategies that enhance and safeguard the amount and quality of water supplies used for rainfed crop production and livestock production on rangelands and pasture lands
  • More water-efficient methods and agricultural systems for producing high-value crops that reduce impacts from increased salinity and groundwater depletion while ensuring the long-term sustainability of irrigated agriculture
  • Improved strategies and decision support systems that will allow irrigated agriculture to reuse waste and drainage waters without comprising crop production, food safety, or water quality impacts
  • Modernization of drainage management systems that improve soil and water resources, agricultural production practices, and cost-effective use of agricultural chemicals
  • Improved technologies to maintain the viability of agriculture while protecting water quality from degradation by excess nutrients, pesticides and other synthetic chemicals, pathogens, sediments, salts, trace elements, and increased water temperatures
  • Comprehensive data bases, models, and decision support systems for use in promoting sound water policies and strategies to manage the Nation's water resources and mediate conflicts
  • New and innovative concepts, assessment tools, and integrated agricultural and rangeland systems that predict and improve water quality at the field, farm, and watershed scales
  • Improved linkage of water resource information systems and technology transfer to customers

Last Modified: 5/14/2001