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Project ID: 2004IN158B

Title: Potential of Controlled Drainage to Reduce Nitrate Contamination at the Watershed Scale

Project Type: Research

Focus Categories: Agriculture, Nitrate Contamination, Surface Water

Keywords: Nitrate, controlled drainage, agricultural drainage water management

Start Date: 03/01/2004

End Date: 02/28/2005

Federal Funds: $20,000

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $40,000

Congressional District: 4th

Principal Investigators:
Jane R. Frankenberger

Eileen J. Kladivko


About 50% of all cropland in Indiana is artificially drained with subsurface tile drainage systems. While artificial drainage is necessary for insuring field operations and crop production, it has environmental costs, increasing nitrate-N load to surface water. Controlled drainage has been shown in plot- and field-scale studies to reduce nitrate losses from subsurface-drained soils. Control structures are used to hold the water table at a higher level during the non-growing season in November to March when most of the drainage and nitrate loss occur. Controlled drainage could have an important impact on annual nitrate load in streams and rivers that drain heavily-drained watersheds. Although field and modeling studies provide good estimates of potential nitrate loss reduction at the field scale, no studies exist that estimate how much nitrate reduction is possible from implementation of controlled drainage at the mid-size watershed scale. The goal of this study is to quantify the potential benefit of controlled drainage in reducing nitrate-N load to surface water in a mid-sized watershed, under the weather and soil conditions in Indiana. The watershed version of DRAINMOD-N will be used for analysis and prediction, and Monte Carlo simulations will be used for uncertainty analysis. The results will include the potential percent reduction in nitrate-N load that would occur if all cropland that is suitable for controlled drainage has that practice in fallow season and the confidence intervals for the estimates. This information can be delivered to producers, policy-makers, and rural communities to encourage improved drainage water management in Indiana.

Progress/Completion Report PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by: John Schefter
Last Updated: Wednesday July 13, 2005 12:23 PM
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