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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Riverside, California » U.S. Salinity Laboratory » Contaminant Fate and Transport Research » Research » Research Project #432385

Research Project: Sustaining Irrigated Agriculture in an Era of Increasing Water Scarcity and Reduced Water Quality

Location: Contaminant Fate and Transport Research

Project Number: 2036-61000-018-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Feb 6, 2017
End Date: Feb 5, 2022

Objective:
Objective 1: Evaluate the effects of degraded irrigation waters on crop water use and yield at commercial production scales. Subobjective 1A: Evaluate the impact of salinity on crop water use and productivity by observing evapotranspiration and carbon fluxes in commercial almond and pistachio orchards exhibiting a range of salinities. Subobjective 1B: Develop quantitative relationships between remotely-sensed plant canopy observations and measured crop water use and productivity. Objective 2: Develop an innovative, open informatics platform for disseminating information, tools, and recommendations for the management of marginal quality irrigation and artificial recharge waters. Subobjective 2A: Develop a web-based platform for disseminating information, tools, and recommendations for evaluating and managing saline irrigation waters. Subobjective 2B: Develop improved models to support managed aquifer recharge (MAR) treatment of alternative water resources for irrigation.

Approach:
Drought, climate change, and competition for resources are reducing the availability of irrigation water and farmland in arid and semi-arid regions. One strategy for maintaining or enhancing productivity in the face of diminished resource availability is to make greater use of marginal lands and alternative water sources, both for irrigation and for recharging depleted aquifers. Sustainable use of low quality waters requires soil, water, and crop management practices that optimize crop production and aquifer recharge while minimizing the degradation of natural resources by salts and other contaminants. Advanced models and decision-support tools are needed to evaluate alternative management practices and to assist growers and water managers in satisfying increasingly stringent regulations. In this project, we use micro-meteorological methods to evaluate field-scale crop productivity and water-use across a network of research sites in commercial orchards exhibiting a range of soil salinities and irrigation water qualities. Additionally, we develop an open, web-based informatics platform for disseminating information, models, and decision-support for the use of saline irrigation waters. Lastly, we develop modeling tools focusing on two problems associated with alternative waters and managed aquifer recharge operations: (i.) decreasing infiltration due to soil clogging by colloids; and (ii.) infiltration depths and setback distances required to ensure microbial safety at groundwater extraction points. The project should lead to improved recommendations for managing alternative water resources for irrigation and recharge, and produce new capabilities for predicting the effects of management decisions on crop yields and on soil and water quality.