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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Evaluation of the Effects of Rangeland Conditions on the Sources and Transport of Dissolved Solids Within the Upper Colorado River Basin

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Principal focus of the Project (Salt Mitigation) effort is to produce national and regional synthesis assessments of environmental benefits/impacts of conservation programs to support policy decision and program implementation grazing lands by the Department of Interior and Agriculture. This study will improve the understanding of the sources and transport of dissolved solids in rangelands in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB), generating knowledge which will generally be transferrable to other semi-arid and arid domestic and international rangelands. Relationships between the health of rangelands (i.e. state within an Ecological Site) and transport potential of salts may reveal where conservation practices can be applied to cost-effectively reduce dissolved-solids yields delivered to UCRB streams. This would ultimately benefit agricultural producers, wildlife and water users by lowering concentrations in the Colorado River and its tributaries and allow the United States to meet treaty obligations with Mexico. In addition to the knowledge gained, several of the datasets compiled in this study could be incorporated into ARS and USGS’s models of dissolved-solids sources and transport in streams of the UCRB. This could improve the uncertainty of the water quality models and provide enhanced capability of running prediction scenarios that evaluate the cost-effectiveness of different land and water management options on dissolved solids in UCRB streams.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
The primary objective of phase 1 is to compile a body of easily accessible knowledge learned from past studies on the sources and transport (groundwater as related to surface water, conservation practices, and wind erosion) of dissolved solids to streams in rangelands around the world. This phase will be conducted by USDA staff. The Water Quality Information Center (WQIC) at the National Agricultural Library (NAL) will develop a bibliography. The primary product will be an annotated bibliography, similar to that produced by the USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Project, which is available at: HTML and PDF versions will be placed on the WQIC Web site for easy access. An online dynamic version will also be developed. The dynamic version generates citations from real-time searches of the AGRICOLA database, so the bibliography is always current. Along with AGRICOLA, a number of commercial databases such as Scopus, CAB Abstracts and BIOSIS will be searched to identify relevant documents. No date limits will be applied to the searches unless the volume of relevant documents is unmanageably large. The document will be < 500 pages and search criteria will be cross-linked with NRCS conservation practices numbers where possible (i.e. prescribed grazing is 528). The primary objective of the second phase is to synthesize the body of knowledge assembled in phase 1. While the scope of the literature search is world-wide, the synthesis will focus on dissolved-solids sources and transport processes relevant in the UCRB. The cross-linking of NRCS conservation practices to impacts documented by the literature will provide a direct benefit to land management agencies by providing them with an easy lookup table of benefits by practice and associated literature references when proposing potential salt mitigation projects. This phase will be conducted by USDA staff. The primary product is a draft written analysis that will later be included in a jointly authored publication through USGS.

3. Progress Report:
This agreement is related to objective 3 of the in-house project, "Develop and transfer innovative management approaches and technology for conserving and rehabilitating sagebrush, pinyon/juniper woodlands, and salt desert shrublands to meet natural resource and agricultural production goals". The research proposed in this project will help achieve the following National Program 215 (Pasture, Forage, and Rangeland Systems) objectives through initiation of individual and multi-agency joint research projects: Objective B.1. Develop strategies and practices for conserving healthy rangelands and restoring degraded lands under changing environmental conditions to meet a variety of ecosystem services; Objective B.2. Develop decision support tools usable at multiple scales including landscape levels for inventorying and assessing rangelands; and, for selecting, implementing, and monitoring conservation and restoration practices. ARS researchers at Reno, Nevada, in collaboration with the National Agricultural Library, Bureau of Land Management, and University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), initiated a project to improve the understanding of sources and transport mechanisms of dissolved solids (salts) from rangelands. The team has conducted an extensive international literature review (1,000 citations) and will publish an annotated bibliography report later this year. The team is developing synthesis of the literature on the status of what is known on salt mobilization and transport for use in developing mitigation plans for impacted areas in the western United States and will publish this document latter this year. We are working with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to build a manual of available practices and inferred impacts and benefits if the practices (i.e., gully plug) are implemented to reduce salt mobilization and transport. USGS will use this manual to improve predictions of the Spatially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes (SPARROW) model when estimating water quality of western rivers. The team has met with the Colorado Salinity Board and associated working groups four times and reviewed the progress of the project. This work resulted in the Bureau of Reclamation funding a new project to quantify soil loss and salinity transport from western rangelands. The aim of this project is to determine cost effective means of enhancing degraded rangelands and reducing salinity and sedimentation in western rivers.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 06/25/2017
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