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On-Farm Watershed Study of Water Use and Water Quality for Rice Production

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Watershed ManWatershed Management to Meet Water Quality Standards and TMDLS (Total Maximum Daily Load) Proceedings of the 10-14 March 2007, San Antonio, Texas  701P0207.(doi:10.13031/2013.22491)
Authors:   Phil L Tacker, Wayne Smith, Rachel Lipsey
Keywords:   TMDL, rice irrigation, watershed, field runoff, runoff sampling, multiple inlet rice irrigation, on-farm study

A major rice producing area of the US, the LAnguille River Watershed in eastern Arkansas, is experiencing declining groundwater levels and is designated for a total maximum daily load (TMDL) limit for total suspended solids (TSS). Previous on-farm water-use studies in Arkansas indicate that multiple-inlet rice irrigation (MIRI) required an average of 24% less irrigation water than conventional flooding without yield loss. A multidisciplinary project is being conducted to investigate further the impact of MIRI on water use, runoff volume, and quality of the runoff water within the LAnguille River watershed. Cooperating producers in the watershed provide access to paired rice fields that are instrumented and monitored for computation of a water balance throughout the flood period. One field uses MIRI and the other is irrigated with the conventional approach. Sampling and analysis of inflow and runoff water is performed to determine quantity and quality relationships. Data is still being analyzed but the preliminary observations are; MIRI provides pumping savings and reduced runoff on most fields, the flash board riser significantly reduced the TSS in runoff, 92% (81 of 88) of the runoff samples collected in 2006 had TSS levels below the TMDL target level of 35 mg/l, and the runoff samples with high TSS levels (7 of 88) seem to be associated with certain field operations during the season. This information is from production fields that are subject to the many variables experienced during the growing season and should help support considerations related to water conservation and TMDL development and implementation.

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