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USGS Scientist Warns Against Poor Irrigation Practices
Released: 8/28/1995

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Pat  Jorgenson 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4460

Herman Feltz, a USGS hydrologist in Reston, VA., told delegates to the American Water Resources Association Summer Symposium meeting at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, that because irrigation of marginal land is often the cause of soil erosion, salinization, waterlogging and release of contaminants into irrigation drainwater, agriculturists and planners should assess all these factors before bringing marginal land into production.

"There are numerous documented examples of the adverse effects of irrigating land without first understanding and then considering implications of the interdependent relationships of hydrology, geology, geochemistry, biology , climatology and socio-economics," Feltz said.

Feltz cited research in California in the mid-1980s which determined that the primary cause of death, deformities and reproductive failure among waterfowl and shorebirds at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in the San Joaquin Valley was elevated levels of selenium in irrigation drainwater.

Although selenium is a natural element and trace amounts are necessary for good health in most species, the high concentrations of selenium at Kesterson and other sites in the western United States are the result of poor irrigation drainage, according to Feltz.

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