Statewide Irrigation Water Survey: Water Quality and Water Application Techniques
By: Sarah A. White, PhD
Help us, help you during the SC water survey.
The frequency of drought has increased in SC in recent years, in part due to variability in rain events (both in terms of when (seasonality) and how much (intensity) it rains). These droughts combine with inter- and intra-state water wars to jeopardized water availability and could impact the future water security of SC. Irrigation by agricultural producers accounts for roughly 10% of consumptive water use in SC, where over 65,000 irrigated acres are devoted to specialty crops production. Irrigated specialty crops, including nursery, greenhouse, and turfgrass production sites, account for hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue each year. Though agricultural irrigation accounts for a considerable portion of consumptive water use in the state, limited studies have assessed irrigation source type (groundwater, surface water, municipal, etc.), quality of irrigation source water, and water use practices by growers. With over 600 nurseries, greenhouse, and turfgrass production operations in SC, water use data are imperative for future planning of allocation and water use management in SC. My Clean WateR3 (check out www.cleanwater3.org) lab at Clemson has recently gained funding from the SC Water Resources Institute via the US Geological Survey to characterize irrigation water source quality and water use practices (volume used), at minimum 30 nurseries and greenhouse producers across the state will be asked to participate in the survey so that we can provide SC with factual information related to water use.
Collaborating producers will be visited three times throughout 2018 – early spring, mid-summer, and fall. During each visit, water quality parameters, including pH, alkalinity, and dissolved oxygen, will be measured and samples collected for nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and metals analyses, and water samples screened for plant disease causing organisms (e.g., Phytophthora). A short survey regarding water use practices is also needed to help ground the water-quality data. The current lack of data on irrigation source water and water use practices for nursery and greenhouse operations across the state represent a substantial knowledge gap. To inform future SC water use management decisions, we must first understand how water is used now. Specialty crop producers contribute significantly to the state economy and water allocations should be aligned with these contributions.
If you are interested in having us include your operation in the water survey project, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 864-656-7433.