Surface Water Quality and Irrigated Pasture: Field Studies in Sierra Valley, California

Surface Water Quality and Irrigated Pasture: Field Studies in Sierra Valley, California
The Upper Feather River Watershed (UFRW) in the northern Sierra Nevada is home to many of these agricultural valleys, including Sierra Valley , the largest high-alpine valley in the U.S. (Vestra, 2005). Sierra Valley agricultural operations are dominated by irrigated summer pasture, with 98% of the surface and groundwater used in the Valley as irrigation (85% surface water, 15% pumped groundwater (Vestra, 2005; ESF, 2005). Although the Sierra Valley watershed is less than half (~ 40%) the area of the Middle Fork Feather River Hydrologic Unit, it contains the majority (-85%) of the irrigated land (Vestra, 2005) (Table 1). Cattle represent the highest value at $2.8 million in 2002 of any agricultural commodity for Sierra and Plumas counties alone (Vestra, 2005; ESF, 2005). Sierra Valley is identified by the UFRW Integrated Regional Watershed Management Plan (IRWMP) as a priority subwatershed of the UFRW, meaning it exhibits degradation, contributes to sediment loading of the Feather River and should be among the first areas to receive restoration and management attention.
This paper summarizes the results of surface water quality monitoring in Sierra Valley from 2005-2007.
The objectives of this study are to:
* Determine current baseline surface water quality conditions in Sierra Valley.
* Determine whether livestock pasture irrigation detrimentally impacts water quality in Sierra Valley as a result of overland return flows by the following measures:
1. Compare measured concentrations for all constituents in streams below versus above irrigated agriculture regions of Sierra Valley.
2. Determine whether measured concentrations for is. coli, nutrients, sediment, and temperature in streams below irrigated agriculture regions of Sierra Valley exceed water quality limits during the irrigation season.
3. Determine whether measured instantaneous constituent loads exiting the irrigated agriculture regions of Sierra Valley are greater than the sum of constituent loads of all streams entering the Valley upstream of these regions.
4. Determine whether the stream flow profile (above to below) during the irrigation season shows a high level of water use in the Valley.
*Implement and evaluate best management practices (BMPs).
Begin Date
End Date
Originator Name
Laura Anne Murphy, M.S. Thesis Project at UC Davis, 2009
Agriculture, Cattle, Grazing, Irrigated Lands, Irrigation, Monitoring, Runoff, Sierra Valley, Water quality
Resource Type
Resource Owner

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