National Irrigation Water Quality Program
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As of fiscal year 2005,
the National Irrigation Water Quality Program
has been inactive.

For further information regarding the program,
please "Contact Us" via the link
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National Irrigation Water Quality Program Projects

Program Phases

The National Irrigation Water Quality Program was conducted in five distinct phases.

Phase 1, 2, and 3 investigations were conducted by interbureau study teams composed of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey as team leaders with participation by scientists from US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bureau of Indian Affairs, as appropriate. The investigations were to determine if irrigation drainage (1) had caused or had the potential to cause significant harm to fish, wildlife, or human health and/or (2) could adversely affect the suitability of water for other beneficial uses. Phase 4 and 5 remediation efforts were led by the bureau that constructed the project, usually Reclamation.

Phase 1:  Site Identification
Phase 1 was a comprehensive survey of about 600 irrigation project areas and Federal and State wildlife refuges. This phase was completed in 1989. Based upon screening criteria, 31 sites in 15 states were identified as having high or medium potential for irrigation-induced contamination problems. After further review, several sites were combined to bring the total to 26 sites. Nine additional sites were later identified for field screening studies.

Phase 2:  Reconnaissance Investigations
Phase 2 reconnaissance investigations were completed for 26 sites identified in Phase 1. Reconnaissance investigations were funded for up to 2 years to investigate and determine levels of potential toxic chemicals in water, sediment, plants, fish, and aquatic birds, and if those contaminants were at a level that could potentially cause injury to fish or wildlife resources. The 26 reconnaissance investigation sites are listed below with links to the resulting data and reports from Phases 2, 3, 4 and 5 as appropriate.

Field screening studies, similar to reconnaissance investigations but limited to 1 year of data collection, were initiated for 9 additional sites. None of these warranted further study. These sites were:

  • Dolores/Mancos, CO
  • Emery/Scofield, UT
  • Helena Valley, MT
  • Indian Lakes, NV
  • North Platte River, NE
  • Uintah/Ouray, UT
  • Walker River, NV
  • Wind River, WY
  • Yuma Valley, AZ

Phase 3:  Detailed Studies
Detailed studies were field studies to gather information to identify the extent of any biological impacts. They included identification of sources, transport mechanisms and fate of potentially toxic chemicals, and quantification of adverse impacts. Based upon the results of the reconnaissance investigations, it was determined that 8 of the 26 warranted a more in-depth investigation. These were:

Phase 4:  Remediation Planning
Phase 4 was a development of remediation alternatives to alleviate any existing biological impacts found during Phase 3. Based upon the results of the Phase 3 detailed studies, it was determined that five sites had adverse impacts to fish and wildlife resources from Federal irrigation projects. These were:

Planning was coordinated with appropriate Federal, State, and local agencies. The planning process was led by the bureau (Reclamation or Bureau of Indian Affairs) responsible for the irrigation project and governed by a core team made up of representatives from Reclamation or Bureau of Indian Affairs (as appropriate), the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A technical team worked under the direction of the core team to evaluate various technical issues related to the proposed remediation alternatives.

Phase 5:  Remediation Implementation
Phase 5 was implementation of corrective actions identified in Phase 4. Two projects, or wetland sites within project areas, were in Phase 5 remediation in 2005. The core team for the Gunnison/Grand Valley Project in Colorado determined that there were over 20 wetland sites that could require remediation. Orchard Mesa Wildlife Area and Colorado River Wildlife Area were remediated by 2005 in the Grand Valley. In the Gunnison area, a lateral piping project in cooperation with the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association was initiated and was still in process as of 2005. The Gunnison/Grand Valley Core Team was also working in cooperation with the Gunnison Basin and Grand Valley Selenium Tasks Forces.

In 2005, remediation activities in the Middle Green River Project in Utah included extending drains away from Stewart Lake Waterfowl Management Area to the Green River and construction of the seepage collection system in Stewart Lake.

Projects Map