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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Surface Water Quality

Herbicide and Nutrient Transport from an Irrigation District into the South Saskatchewan River


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 30 No. 5, p. 1796-1807
    Received: Aug 1, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): allan.cessna@ec.gc.ca
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  1. A. J. Cessna *a,
  2. J. A. Elliottb,
  3. L. Tollefsonc and
  4. W. Nicholaichukd
  1. a Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge Research Centre, Lethbridge, AB, Canada
    b National Water Research Institute, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
    c Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre, Outlook, SK, Canada
    d National Water Research Institute, Saskatoon, SK, Canada


Pesticides and nutrients can be transported from treated agricultural land in irrigation runoff and thus can affect the quality of receiving waters. A 3-yr study was carried out to assess possible detrimental effects on the downstream water quality of the South Saskatchewan River due to herbicide and plant nutrient inputs via drainage water from an irrigation district. Automated water samplers and flow monitors were used to intensively sample the drainage water and to monitor daily flows in two major drainage ditches, which drained approximately 40% of the flood-irrigated land within the irrigation district. Over three years, there were no detectable inputs of ethalfluralin into the river and those of trifluralin were less than 0.002% of the amount applied to flood-irrigated fields. Inputs of MCPA, bromoxynil, dicamba and mecoprop were 0.06% or less of the amounts applied, whereas that for clopyralid was 0.31%. The relatively higher input (1.4%) of 2,4-D to the river was probably due its presence in the irrigation water. Corresponding inputs of P (as total P) and N (as nitrate plus ammonia) were 2.2 and 1.9% of applied fertilizer, respectively. Due to dilution of the drainage water in the river, maximum daily herbicide (with the exception of 2,4-D) and nutrient loadings to the river would not have resulted in significant concentration increases in the river water. There was no consistent remedial effect on herbicides entering the river due to passage of the drainage water through a natural wetland. In contrast, a considerable portion of the nutrients entering the river originated from the wetland.

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Copyright © 2001. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.30:1796–1807.