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Evaluation of agricultural best-management practices in the Conestoga River headwaters, Pennsylvania; effects of pipe-outlet terracing on quantity and quality of surface runoff and ground water in a small carbonate-rock basin near Churchtown, Pennsylvania, 1983-89

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4206

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Abstract

Terracing effects on surface-runoff and ground- water quantity and quality were investigated by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources, during 1983-89 at a 23.1-acre agricultural site in Lancaster County, Pa., as part of the 1982 Rural Clean Water Program. The site, underlain by carbonate rock, was primarily corn and alfalfa fields; the median slope was 6 percent.Normal precipitation is about 42 inches per year. Average annual runoff was 11 percent and ground- water recharge was 37 percent of precipitation.Runoff quantity, suspended-sediment, and nutrient data, ground-water level and nutrient data, and precipitation-quantity data were collected for 21 months prior to, and 58 months after, pipe-outlet terrace construction. Data were analyzed by use of graphical, regression, covariate, cluster, Mann- Whitney Rank Sum test, and double-mass curvetechniques. Terracing changed runoff characteristics. Storm characteristics were similar throughout the study period. However, after terracing, storms producing less than 0.4 inch of precipitation rarely produced runoff. Total-storm discharge as a function of precipitation did not change significantly throughout the range of runoff-producing storms after terracing. Multiple-discharge peaks on hydrographs before terracing did not occur after terracing when hydrographs reflected the stepwisedraining of each terrace through the pipe outlet. After an initial 2-year period of terrace stabilization, suspended-sediment yield in runoff decreased significantly as a function of runoff. This result was expected because terracing decreased runoff energy, and because terrace ponding allowed time for sediment redeposition. Nitrate plus nitrite yields increased proportionally throughout the range of runoff during the post-terracing period relative to the pre- terracing period. After terracing, a combination of increased soil contact time and increased nitrification caused by wetter soils is believed to have increased nitrate concentrations in runoff. No significant change was found in yields of total nitrogen, ammonia plus organic nitrogen, or total phosphorus relative to runoff before and after terracing. Limited data suggest that fine-sediment particles (less than 0.62 micrometers in diameter), which continued to be discharged from the site, transported most of the phosphorus. Terracing did not significantly change the quantity of recharge to the carbonate aquifer. The mean annual water-table altitude did not change after terracing. Nitrate concentrations of ground water increased significantly at four of the site wells after terracing, probably because of increased contact time of the recharge with nutrient-rich soils in ponded terrace water. Qualitative evidence indicates that large decreases in nutrient requirements and nitrogen applications because of a crop change from corn to alfalfa upgradient of two site wells resulted in either no detectable change or a significant decrease in nitrate concentrations of ground water after terracing.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Evaluation of agricultural best-management practices in the Conestoga River headwaters, Pennsylvania; effects of pipe-outlet terracing on quantity and quality of surface runoff and ground water in a small carbonate-rock basin near Churchtown, Pennsylvania, 1983-89
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
94-4206
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1997
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
Description:
vii, 62 p. :ill., map ;28 cm.