Quantitative Assessments of Water and Salt Balance for Cropping Systems in Lower Colorado River Irrigation Districts

Aug 2016 to Jul 2025

Collaborating Researcher(s)

Dr. Charles Sanchez, University of Arizona
Dr. Andrew French, USDA-ARS Arid Land Agricultural Research Center
Dr. Mazin Saber, University of Arizona
Dr. Dawit Zerihun, University of Arizona
Dr. Clinton Williams, USDA-ARS Arid Land Agricultural Research Center
Dr. Ray Anderson, USDA-ARS United States Salinity Laboratory
Dr. Jay Subramani, University of Arizona
Dr. Elzbieta Wisniewski, USDA-ARS Arid Land Agirultural Research Center
Dr. Douglas Hunsaker, USDA-ARS Arid Land Agricultural Research Center

Project Supporter(s)

United States Bureau of Reclamation
USDA-ARS Arid Land Agricultural Research Service
Yuma County Agriculture Water Coalition
USDA/Arizona Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
Various Grower Cooperators
University of Arizona Experiment Station Strategic Research Investment Funds
University of Arizona Water, Environmental & Energy Solutions - TRIF Project Funds
Arizona Grain Research and Promotion Council
Arizona Iceberg Lettuce Research Council
Arizona Citrus Research Council
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Irrigation and soil salinity management are of paramount importance to agriculture sustainability in desert agriculture. Because irrigation water and shallow groundwater that fluxes up through the soil have salts, some level of excess irrigation (beyond crop consumptive use) must be applied to leach salts below the crop root zone. The various irrigation systems utilized, and the management of these systems can have a profound impact on water delivered, leaching achieved, and resulting salt distribution.

Since 2016, YCEDA has coordinated a large multi-institution cross-disciplinary project to quantitatively track water use and salt balance across typical crop production systems and rotations. Partners include the University of Arizona and USDA-ARS researchers, Irrigation Districts, United States Bureau of Reclamation, NASA, Arizona Commodity Councils, and others, including a group of University of Arizona-Yuma Systems Engineering seniors who completed a Senior Design project during the 2018-2019 academic year to support this project. Technologies such as electromagnetic surveys (EM38), Eddy covariance (ECV) systems, large aperture scintillometer (LAS) instrumentation, UAV with remote sensors, and satellites are being utilized to measure evapotranspiration (ET) and soil salinity levels at multiple scales. The robust dataset is being used to develop an irrigation management and soil salinity app, DesertAgWISE, to assist growers with optimizing required irrigation for crop use and leaching.

Research Reports & Publications:

See videos below and attachments in the 'More Information' section.

Large Aperture Scintillometry (LAS) instrumentation
Large Aperture Scintillometry (LAS) instrumentation

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