Water quality monitoring and modeling studies of on-farm water storage systems in a Mississippi Delta agricultural watershed
Perez-Gutierrez, Juan David
AdvisorPaz, Joel O.
Tagert, Mary Love M.
Federal and state programs have encouraged farmers in the Mississippi Delta region to implement best management practices (BMPs) to promote soil and water conservation. An on-farm water storage (OFWS) system is a structural BMP that has several potential benefits, namely, the ability to capture and reuse rainwater and tailwater runoff, provide supplemental water for irrigation, reduce groundwater withdrawals, and improve downstream water quality. However, research demonstrating these benefits and providing new insights for downstream water quality improvement and nutrient-rich runoff management is limited. This dissertation addresses these research gaps by examining the ability of OFWS systems to mitigate off-site nutrient movement, analyzing the impacts of rainfall characteristics on the ability of OFWS systems to reduce NO3-N, studying the hydrological and physical-chemical characteristics of the volume of water exiting an OFWS system, and using the AnnAGNPS model to simulate runoff, nutrient, and sediment loads entering a tailwater recovery ditch and identify the critical contributing areas of non-point source pollution. Significant seasonal water quality improvements were observed at different locations throughout the OFWS system, and more importantly, highlight downstream nutrient reduction, particularly during winter and spring. However, recurrent and high intensity rainfall events can minimize the system’s effectiveness in reducing downstream nutrient pollution. The NO3-N concentrations observed in the ditch were strongly dependent on antecedent hydrological conditions with characteristics of next-to-last rainfall events playing a more influential role. The nutrient load was greater in winter, as this season produced the highest effluent discharge. Agricultural fields draining to the outlet of the system produced 7.1 kg NO3-N ha-1yr-1 and 2.3 kg TP ha-1yr-1 that was discharged with outflow events. AnnAGNPS simulations showed that larger fields coupled with poorly drained soils resulted in higher runoff, and this condition mirrored the annual rainfall patterns. High nitrogen loss was due to fertilization of corn and winter wheat. TP and sediment loss patterns were similar and influenced by the hydrological condition. This study can be used by stakeholders and agencies to better identify where these systems can be implemented to improve water quality and offer a supplemental source of surface water.