Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016NM180B

What are the effects of the Gold King Mine spill on San Juan County, NM agricultural irrigation ditches and farms?

Institute: New Mexico
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $30,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $60,000

Principal Investigators: Kevin Lombard, April Ulery, David Weindorf

Abstract: Contamination of the Animas and San Juan Rivers following the Gold King Mine blow-out of August 2015 raises a number of questions by farmers in San Juan County as they pertain to agriculture in the watershed. Navajo irrigators residing in San Juan County who access the Hog-back main canal still have elected not to irrigate their farms pending further data. Hay producers and market growers of specialty crops express anxiety over food safety. For example, some farmers have indicated delayed contracts from dairies who purchase baled hay because of fear of heavy metal contamination. River sediments accumulate in irrigation ditches and smaller laterals. Because the ditches were dry for about 10 days during a closure of the irrigation system, this gave our team the unique opportunity to establish base-line measures of irrigation ditch sediment in dry irrigation ditches for future long-term evaluations of the river/irrigation ditch/agricultural field interface through a repeated measures experimental design. With this scenario, we are poised to help answer some of the questions raised by local growers, agencies and consumers.