Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014GA346B

Baseline Conservation Analysis for Agricultural Irrigation in Priority Watersheds of the Lower Flint River Basin

Institute: Georgia
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2014-12-15
Total Federal Funds: $18,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $36,200

Principal Investigators: Mark Masters

Abstract: In the Lower Flint River Basin (LFRB), recent droughts have resulted in historic low flows and heightened concern over water scarcity for in-stream and off-stream needs. Irrigated agriculture is critical to the regional economy. Low flows in the LFRB threatened access to water for irrigation during the growing season in 2007, 2011, and 2012. Environmentally, low flows compromise the habitat of federally-listed endangered and threatened freshwater mussels as well as other important aquatic species and can create significantly degraded water quality conditions. The LFRB is also central to the decades-long interstate conflict over water allocation in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) System. Sustainable use and careful management of the Flint and its tributaries will be central in resolving increasingly severe and complex water resource management issues in the region. Careful management requires a solid information base on which to make decisions, but at this time, the state of Georgia has limited information on agricultural water use and especially lacking is information on conservation practices. Conservation practices are widely used by farmers in the LFRB, but upgrades in efficiency can still be attained. A baseline survey on conservation implementation in irrigation systems in the LFRB is needed to support decision making about future conservation investments. The Upper Flint and Lower Flint-Ochlockonee Regional Water Councils recommended developed of such a database in their 2011 regional water plans. The Albany State University Georgia Water Planning and Policy Center (the Center) initiated an effort to establish baseline information on conservation practices used in the LFRB in 2012 and has received state funding that supports this effort in nine priority sub-basins in the LFRB. The Center is seeking funding to attain full coverage by this survey of all agricultural withdrawals in the nine priority watersheds. The project objectives are: (a) Complete a full survey of conservation practices associated with agricultural withdrawals (greater than 100,000 gallons per day) in the nine priority watersheds; (b) Compile collected data in the Center’s GIS database; and (c) Analyze collected data to support reporting and recommendations to water managers based on the baseline conservation assessment. The Center will conduct field visits for data collection, and collected data will be compiled in the Center’s GIS database, which already includes extensive information on water use, wetted acreage, and hydrology in the LFRB. The end product of this initiative will be a baseline analysis of conservation practices by irrigators in the nine priority watersheds. This information will support state water regulators, regional water planning councils, and federally-funded agricultural conservation incentive programs in ensuring that conservation practices are widely implemented and that conservation investments are directed toward the greatest benefits.