Effects of Drainage on Water, Sediment and Biota

by Richard A. Engberg, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, United States,
Marc A. Sylvester, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, United States,
Herman R. Feltz, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Structures for Enhanced Safety and Physical Security


The U.S. Department of the Interior started a program in 1985 to identify effects of irrigation-induced trace constituents in water, bottom sediment and biota. The program was developed in response to concerns that contamination similar to that found in 1983 at Kesterson Reservoir in California might exist elsewhere. Studies are complete or underway for 26 sites in 15 western States. Selenium is the trace constituent most often found at elevated concentrations in all media. Maximum selenium concentrations in fish from 9 of 20 areas exceeded the threshold concentration for adverse reproductive effects. Maximum selenium concentrations in bird livers from 11 areas exceeded the level at which embryonic deformities are likely; deformed birds were observed in 5 areas. Trace constituent problems may be anticipated if geologic sources such as marine shales occur in an irrigation project area. The potential for problems is increased if closed basins or sinks are present.

Subject Headings: Drainage | Sediment | Water quality | Water pollution | Irrigation | Selenium | Water supply | Birds | California | United States

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