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USDA Water Quality
What is the Project About?
The Mini-Cassia Water Quality Demonstration Project is one of only 16 projects funded nationally by USDA. The purpose of these 5-year, federally funded projects is to accelerate the transfer of technology necessary to protect ground and surface water quality while maintaining farm profitability.
This project will demonstrate for farmers ways to minimize the effects of agricultural nonpoint sources of pollution on water quality, especially groundwater quality.
Water quality is an environmental issue that will dominate federal and state legislation in the 1990s. In fact, water quality is a presidential initiative! Because of this there is much at stake with these demonstration projects. These 16 projects may be the last chance agriculture has to demonstrate that voluntary best management practices (BMPs) developed to protect water quality can and will work. If these projects are deemed a success, increased regulatory activity may not follow.
Description of Project Area
The Mini-Cassia Water Quality Demonstration Project comprises over 1,946,000 acres in Blaine, Cassia, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, Oneida, Power and Twin Falls counties. Within this project are over 1,500 farms covering more than 760,000 acres. Approximately 91 percent of the arable land within this study area is presently irrigated. Average farm size is 520 acres. Agriculture within the study area is diverse. Major crops include: alfalfa (70,000 acres) barley (68,000 acres), dry beans (16,000 acres), corn (6,000 acres), potatoes (44,000 acres), sugarbeets (62,000 acres) and wheat (150,000 acres).
Groundwater monitoring surveys have shown that agrichemicals are contaminating many aquifers in Idaho. The Idaho Division of Environmental Quality has identified the Snake River Plain aquifer in southern Idaho as a particularly vulnerable aquifer. This aquifer includes the Minidoka-Cassia County areas. This is a major concern since groundwater is the source of drinking water for over 90 percent of Idahoans. Both shallow and deep water tables exist within the study area. Intensive and extensive agrichemicals are used in the area. Nitrogen use averages over 125 lb/acre, and over 80 agrichemicals are used in the project area. Used irrigation water is currently reintroduced with the use of injection wells.
This project site was selected because agricultural cropping systems and hydrological characteristics make groundwater in the Minidoka-Cassia county area particularly vulnerable. If voluntary BMPs developed and implemented here work, they can be applied in other irrigated parts of the Northwest.
The objective is to demonstrate efforts of alternative best management practices (BMPs) and agricultural production systems which include:
This demonstration project includes the following components:
Other Major Participants:
Minidoka Soil and Water Conservation District
East Cassia Soil and Water Conservation District
Agricultural Research Service
Division of Environmental Quality
Idaho Department of Agriculture
Idaho Department of Water Resources
Idaho Soil Conservation Commission
Local Irrigation Districts
University of Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station
West Cassia Soil and Water Conservation District
This brochure, WQ-3, was prepared by Stacey Camp and R. L.
Mahler. Camp is area agricultural agent assigned to demonstration project,
University of Idaho, Burley, Idaho 83318. Mahler is Water Quality Coordinator,
Soil Science Division, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho
83844-2339. Project office located at: 1369 East 16th Street,
Burley. Telephone: 208-678-7946 or
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