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Water 2015, 7(1), 12-37; doi:10.3390/w7010012

Economic Feasibility of Irrigated Agricultural Land Use Buffers to Reduce Groundwater Nitrate in Rural Drinking Water Sources

1
Environmental Horticulture 192, University of California Davis, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA
2
School of Engineering, University of California Merced, 5200 N. Lake Road, Merced, CA 95340, USA
3
Civil and Environmental Engineering, 3019 Ghausi Hall, University of California Davis, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA
4
Land Air Water Resources, 125 Veihmeyer Hall, University of California Davis, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Philip A. Brunner
Received: 1 October 2014 / Accepted: 1 December 2014 / Published: 23 December 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Surface Water Groundwater Interactions: From Theory to Practice)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1409 KB, uploaded 9 June 2015]   |  

Abstract

Agricultural irrigation leachate is often the largest source for aquifer recharge in semi-arid groundwater basins, but contamination from fertilizers and other agro-chemicals may degrade the quality of groundwater. Affected communities are frequently economically disadvantaged, and water supply alternatives may be too costly. This study aimed to demonstrate that, when addressing these issues, environmental sustainability and market profitability are not incompatible. We investigated the viability of two low impact crops, alfalfa and vineyards, and new recharge basins as an alternative land use in recharge buffer zones around affected communities using an integrated hydrologic, socio-geographic, and economic analysis. In the southern Central Valley, California, study area, alfalfa and vineyards currently constitute 30% of all buffer zone cropland. Economic analyses of alternative land use scenarios indicate a wide range of revenue outcomes. Sector output gains and potential cost saving through land use conversion and resulting flood control result in gains of at least $2.3 billion, as compared to costs of $0.3 to $0.7 billion for treatment options over a 20 year period. Buffer zones would maintain the economic integrity of the region and concur with prevailing policy options. Thus, managed agricultural recharge buffer zones are a potentially attractive option for communities facing financial constraint and needing to diversify their portfolio of policy and infrastructure approaches to meet drinking water quality objectives. View Full-Text
Keywords: nitrate; groundwater; semi-arid agriculture; disadvantaged communities; land use buffers; economic trade-offs; California nitrate; groundwater; semi-arid agriculture; disadvantaged communities; land use buffers; economic trade-offs; California
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Mayzelle, M.M.; Viers, J.H.; Medellín-Azuara, J.; Harter, T. Economic Feasibility of Irrigated Agricultural Land Use Buffers to Reduce Groundwater Nitrate in Rural Drinking Water Sources. Water 2015, 7, 12-37.

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