Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018SC107B

Statewide Survey of Irrigation Source Water Quality and Water use Techniques in the Specialty Crops Production Industry

Institute: South Carolina
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $28,610 Total Non-Federal Funds: $57,378

Principal Investigators: Sarah White, Natasha Bell, Megan Chase, Lauren Garcia Chance

Abstract: Decreased precipitation, increased severity and incidence of droughts, and eruption of inter-and intrastate water wars have jeopardized water availability and future water security in the state of South Carolina. Irrigation accounts for roughly 10% of consumptive water use in SC, where over 65,000 irrigated acres are devoted to specialty crops production. Specialty crops, including nursery and greenhouse production sites, account for hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue each year. Though agricultural irrigation accounts for a considerable portion of consumptive water use in the state, limited studies have assessed irrigation source type (groundwater, surface water, municipal, etc.), quality of irrigation source water, and water use practices by growers. With over 600 nurseries and greenhouses in operation in SC, this information is imperative to future planning of allocation and water use management in our state. We propose to characterize irrigation water source quantity and quality, as well as water use practices, at a minimum of 30 nurseries and greenhouses across the state. These production areas will be visited three times throughout the growing season pre-season, mid-season, and late-season. During each visit, water quality parameters, including pH, alkalinity, and dissolved oxygen, will be measured and samples collected for nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and metals analyses, as well as detection of plant pathogens. Further, questionnaires will be distributed to growers to collect information regarding water use practices. Currently, lack of data on irrigation source water and water use practices for nursery and greenhouse operations across the state represent a substantial knowledge gap. In order to inform future water use management decisions, we must first understand how water is used in this important agricultural sector, which will continue to considerably impact the states water budget and economy.