The role of irrigation and artificial drainage in the hydrologic cycle and the transport of solutes in a small agricultural catchment in central Washington's Yakima Valley were explored using hydrologic, chemical, isotopic, age-dating, and mineralogical data from several environmental compartments, including stream water, ground water, overland flow, and streambed pore water. A conceptual understanding of catchment hydrology and solute transport was developed and an inverse end-member mixing analysis was used to further explore the effects of agriculture in this small catchment. The median concentrations of major solutes and nitrates were similar for the single field site and for the catchment outflow site, indicating that the net effects of transport processes for these constituents were similar at both scales. However, concentrations of nutrients were different at the two sites, suggesting that field-scale variations in agricultural practices as well as nearstream and instream biochemical processes are important components of agricultural chemical transformation and transport in this catchment. This work indicates that irrigation coupled with artificial drainage networks may exacerbate the ecological effects of agricultural runoff by increasing direct connectivity between fields and streams and minimizing potentially mitigating effects (denitrification and dilution, for example) of longer subsurface pathways.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Effect of Agricultural Practices on Hydrology and Water Chemistry in a Small Irrigated Catchment, Yakima River Basin, Washington