Irrigation: Erosion

Authored by: David L. Bjorneberg

Managing Water Resources and Hydrological Systems

Print publication date:  July  2020
Online publication date:  July  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138342668
eBook ISBN: 9781003045045
Adobe ISBN:


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Irrigation is essential for global food production. However, irrigation erosion can limit the ability of irrigation systems to reliably produce food and fiber in the future. The factors affecting soil erosion from irrigation are the same as rainfall—water detaches and transports sediment. However, there are some unique differences in how the factors occur during irrigation and in our ability to manage the application of water that causes the erosion. All surface irrigation entails water flowing over soil. Soil type, field slope, and flow rate all affect surface irrigation erosion, with flow rate being the main factor that can be managed. Ideally, sprinkler irrigation will have no runoff, but application rates on moving irrigation systems can exceed the soil infiltration rate, resulting in runoff and erosion. Using tillage practices to increase soil surface storage and selecting sprinklers with lower application rates will reduce sprinkler-irrigation runoff. Irrigation can be managed to minimize erosion and maintain productivity.

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