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

Aug 2016 to Dec 2020

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. Juan Gonzalez Cena, University of Arizona
Dr. Paul Brown, University of Arizona
Dr. Clinton Williams, USDA-ARS Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center
Dr. Eduardo Bautista, 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
Various Grower Cooperators
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
University of Arizona Experiment Station Strategic Research Investment Funds
University of Arizona Water, Environmental & Energy Solutions - TRIF Project Funds
Arizona Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
Arizona Iceberg Lettuce Research Council
Arizona Grain Research and Promotion Council
Arizona Citrus Research Council

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.

YCEDA is coordinating 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 researchers, Irrigation Districts, USDA-ARS, USBR, NASA, Arizona Commodity Councils, and others.  Technologies such as electromagnetic surveys (EM38),  Eddy covariance (ECV) and large aperture scintillometer (LAS) instrumentation, UAV with remote sensors, and satellite will be deployed to measure evapotranspiration (ET) and soil salinity levels at multiple scales.  

Data collection and analysis is ongoing and opportunities for more efficient water, and salt management outcomes will be identified.  Ultimately, this data will be used to develop management tools for most desert cropping systems that take into account actual crop ET and the needed leaching coefficient to assist growers to make an already efficient system even more efficient and sustainable.

Delta Degrees, a team of University of Arizona-Yuma Systems Engineering seniors, completed a Senior Design project during the 2018-2019 academic year which will be used to validate satellite data collected in this irrigation & soil salinity management study. 

Large Aperture Scintillometry (LAS) instrumentation