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Policy Innovation and Governance for Irrigation Sustainability in the Arid, Saline San Joaquin River Basin
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Policy-Driven Sustainable Saline Drainage Disposal and Forage Production in the Western San Joaquin Valley of California

1
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA
2
HydroEcological Engineering Advanced Decision Support Group, Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
3
Department of Plant Science, California State University, Fresno, CA 93740, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6362; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166362
Received: 29 April 2020 / Revised: 29 July 2020 / Accepted: 30 July 2020 / Published: 7 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Irrigation and the Environment: the Role of Governance)
Environmental policies to address water quality impairments in the San Joaquin River of California have focused on the reduction of salinity and selenium-contaminated subsurface agricultural drainage loads from westside sources. On 31 December 2019, all of the agricultural drainage from a 44,000 ha subarea on the western side of the San Joaquin River basin was curtailed. This policy requires the on-site disposal of all of the agricultural drainage water in perpetuity, except during flooding events, when emergency drainage to the River is sanctioned. The reuse of this saline agricultural drainage water to irrigate forage crops, such as ‘Jose’ tall wheatgrass and alfalfa, in a 2428 ha reuse facility provides an economic return on this pollutant disposal option. Irrigation with brackish water requires careful management to prevent salt accumulation in the crop root zone, which can impact forage yields. The objective of this study was to optimize the sustainability of this reuse facility by maximizing the evaporation potential while achieving cost recovery. This was achieved by assessing the spatial and temporal distribution of the root zone salinity in selected fields of ‘Jose’ tall wheatgrass and alfalfa in the drainage reuse facility, some of which have been irrigated with brackish subsurface drainage water for over fifteen years. Electromagnetic soil surveys using an EM-38 instrument were used to measure the spatial variability of the salinity in the soil profile. The tall wheatgrass fields were irrigated with higher salinity water (1.2–9.3 dS m−1) compared to the fields of alfalfa (0.5–6.5 dS m−1). Correspondingly, the soil salinity in the tall wheatgrass fields was higher (12.5 dS m−1–19.3 dS m−1) compared to the alfalfa fields (8.97 dS m−1–14.4 dS m−1) for the years 2016 and 2017. Better leaching of salts was observed in the fields with a subsurface drainage system installed (13–1 and 13–2). The depth-averaged root zone salinity data sets are being used for the calibration of the transient hydro-salinity computer model CSUID-ID (a one-dimensional version of the Colorado State University Irrigation Drainage Model). This user-friendly decision support tool currently provides a useful framework for the data collection needed to make credible, field-scale salinity budgets. In time, it will provide guidance for appropriate leaching requirements and potential blending decisions for sustainable forage production. This paper shows the tie between environmental drainage policy and the role of local governance in the development of sustainable irrigation practices, and how well-directed collaborative field research can guide future resource management. View Full-Text
Keywords: saline irrigation; drainage water reuse; EM-38; leaching requirement; forage; decision support saline irrigation; drainage water reuse; EM-38; leaching requirement; forage; decision support
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MDPI and ACS Style

Singh, A.; Quinn, N.W.T.; Benes, S.E.; Cassel, F. Policy-Driven Sustainable Saline Drainage Disposal and Forage Production in the Western San Joaquin Valley of California. Sustainability 2020, 12, 6362. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166362

AMA Style

Singh A, Quinn NWT, Benes SE, Cassel F. Policy-Driven Sustainable Saline Drainage Disposal and Forage Production in the Western San Joaquin Valley of California. Sustainability. 2020; 12(16):6362. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166362

Chicago/Turabian Style

Singh, Amninder; Quinn, Nigel W.T.; Benes, Sharon E.; Cassel, Florence. 2020. "Policy-Driven Sustainable Saline Drainage Disposal and Forage Production in the Western San Joaquin Valley of California" Sustainability 12, no. 16: 6362. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166362

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