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Potential Water Quality Impact of Drainage Water Management in the Midwest USA

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

Citation:  9th International Drainage Symposium held jointly with CIGR and CSBE/SCGAB Proceedings, 13-16 June 2010  IDS-CSBE-100084.(doi:10.13031/2013.32115)
Authors:   Dan B Jaynes, Kelly R Thorp, David E James
Keywords:   Drainage water management, Controlled drainage, Nitrate, Water quality

Drainage water management (DWM) is a promising technology for reducing nitrate losses from artificially drained fields. While there is an extensive history for the practice in North Carolina, U.S., little is known about the efficacy or cost effectiveness of the practice under Midwest U.S. conditions where artificial subsurface drainage is widely used. In an earlier study, we used a calibrated version of the Root Zone Water Quality Model (RZWQM) coupled with the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) family of crop growth models to simulate the impact of DWM on reducing nitrate losses from drained fields across the Midwest. In this study, we use soil and land cover spatial databases to estimate that 4.8 million ha of land used to grow corn within the Midwest would be suitable for DWM. If DWM were adopted on all of this land, nitrate losses in drainage would be reduced by approximately 83 million kg yr-1. Within just the Upper Mississippi River basin and Ohio/Tennessee River basins, DWM has the potential to reduce nitrate losses from drained fields by 52 million kg yr-1. We estimate that with the cost of control structures, redesign of new drainage systems, and payments to farmers to adjust the control structures to reduce nitrate losses, that the cost per kg of nitrate reduced in drainage water for DWM would be US$2.71.

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