Less Runoff Means More Salinity Management

Taylor Hillman Drought, Water, Weather

An overall gradual decline in snowpack totals will mean the continued fight against salinity issues in both water quality and soils.

Less Snow Means More Salinity Management

Snowpack totals overall are on a gradual decline and some forecasts show that remaining through 2050. Imperial Valley Cooperative Extension Irrigation Advisor Khaled Bali says that decline will continue to complicate water use in his area and everywhere else. “When you look at the continuation of decline in snowpack everywhere, for instance in the Colorado River system, you expect less flow going into reservoirs and less water for everybody, farming and non-farming communities,” Bali said.

As growers know, the need to find ways to conserve water will continue but so will salinity issues. This makes some irrigation systems that may not look efficient a necessity as water is needed for leaching. “The challenge is you have to be more efficient to maintain productivity,” Bali says. “We have a lot of flood or surface irrigation systems. Those systems could be as efficient has pressurized systems. We need to have these types of systems because we have relatively high loads of salts in the Colorado River as it comes down to the Imperial Valley.”

Bali says salinity levels will continue to be a problem in a lot of producing areas of the state, especially in his area. “A typical field in the Imperial Valley may get to about six or seven tons of salt per acre in any given year so flood irrigation is a good way meet crop requirements and have additional water for leaching,” Bali said.