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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Stoneville, Mississippi » Warmwater Aquaculture Research Unit » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #319306

Research Project: Water Quality and Production Systems to Enhance Production of Catfish

Location: Warmwater Aquaculture Research Unit

Title: Improving water-use efficiency for ictalurid catfish pond aquaculture in Northwest Mississippi, USA

Author
item Tucker, Craig
item Pote, Jonathan - Mississippi State University
item Wax, Charles - Mississippi State University
item Brown, Travis

Submitted to: Aquaculture Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/22/2015
Publication Date: 9/22/2015
Citation: Tucker, C.S., Pote, J.W., Wax, C.L., Brown, T.W. 2015. Improving water-use efficiency for ictalurid catfish pond aquaculture in Northwest Mississippi, USA. Aquaculture Research. 48:447-458.

Interpretive Summary: Availability of fresh water is sometimes considered to be a limiting factor for future aquaculture development. This is certainly true at specific local levels where aquaculture may conflict with other water uses. A good example is the Yazoo-Mississippi River floodplain in northwest Mississippi, where water use in pond culture of ictalurid catfishes has combined with high rates of water withdrawal for crop irrigation to cause unsustainable declines in ground water availability. We used a 50-year (1961-2010) daily weather record in a hydrological model to quantify the effects of seepage, reusing water for multiple years, managing water levels to capture rainfall (drop-fill water management), and intensifying production on ground water use in catfish aquaculture. Selecting sites with relatively impervious soils and reusing water for multiple years had large impacts on annual water use, and combining those practices with drop-fill water management reduced simulated groundwater withdrawal to less than 24 inches/year compared with more than 175 inches/year for the least conservative scenario. Water conservation measures reduced estimated annual cost of pumping ground water from ~$465/acre for the least conservative set of water-use variables to less than $45/acre for the best set of water conservation practices. Efficiency of pumped water use was dramatically improved by intensifying production in the foodfish grow-out phase by using hybrid catfish grown in intensively aerated or split ponds. Combining water-conservation practices with production intensification improved the water use index from 1100 gallons/pound for foodfish grow-out ponds with the least conservative set of practices to 35 gallons/pound for ponds built on soils with negligible seepage, managed with a 9-inch drop/3-inch fill to capture rainfall, drained every 10 years, and producing 13,350 pounds of catfish/acre per year. When simulated ground water use for the best set of water conservation practices in foodfish grow-out ponds was combined with estimates of ground water used for fingerling production and water used in producing grain-based feedstuffs, total consumptive water use index for catfish culture was estimated at 340 gallons/pound. This index is competitive with most other types of animal agriculture. Efficient water use in catfish farming is easily achieved under commercial conditions using existing simple technologies that include production intensification.

Technical Abstract: We used a 50-year (1961-2010) daily record of precipitation and evaporation in a hydrological model to simulate ground water withdrawal for the foodfish grow-out phase of ictalurid catfish culture in northwest Mississippi, USA. The model examined the effects of seepage, reusing water for multiple years, and managing water levels to capture rainfall (drop-fill water management). Selecting sites with relatively impervious soils and reusing water for multiple years had large impacts on annual water use, and combining those practices with drop-fill water management reduced simulated groundwater withdrawal to less than 60 cm year-1 compared with more than 450 cm year-1 for the least conservative scenario. Water conservation measures reduced estimated costs of pumping ground water from ~$1,150 ha-1 year-1 for the least conservative set of water-use variables to less than $110 ha-1 year-1 for the best set of water conservation practices. Efficiency of pumped water use was dramatically improved by intensifying production in the foodfish grow-out phase. Combining water-conservation practices with production intensification improved the water use index from 9.18 m3 kg-1 for foodfish grow-out ponds with the least conservative set of practices to 0.28 m3 kg-1 for ponds built on soils with negligible seepage, managed with a 22.9-cm drop/7.6-cm fill, drained every 10 years, and producing 15,000 kg of catfish ha-1 year-1. When simulated ground water use for the best set of water conservation practices in foodfish grow-out ponds was combined with estimates of ground water used for fingerling production and water used in producing grain-based feedstuffs, total consumptive water use index for catfish culture was estimated at ~2.7 m3 kg-1. This index is competitive with most other types of animal agriculture. Efficient water use in catfish farming is easily achieved under commercial conditions using existing simple technologies.