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Title: Irrigated agriculture and freshwater wetlands: A struggle for coexistence in the western United States

Author: Lemly, A. Dennis;

Date: 1994

Source: Wetlands Ecology and Management vol. 3 no I pp. 3-15

Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication

Description: This paper is a review of the major environmental problems associated with irrigated agriculture in the western United States. Freshwater wetlands are being contaminated by subsurface agricultural irrigation drainage in many locations. Historic freshwater inflows have been diverted for agricultural use, and remain- ing freshwater supplies are not sufficient to maintain these important natural areas once they are degraded by irrigation drainage. Migratory birds have been poisoned by drainwater contaminants on at least six national wildlife refuges; waterfowl populations are threatened in the Pacific and Central flyways. Revised water allocation policies and regulatory actions are probably necessary to correct existing damage and prevent future problems. The benefits of maintaining healthy wetlands should be used as a rationale for negotiating increases in freshwater supplies. Cost analyses that show the importance of wetlands in dollar values are critical to the success of these negotiations. The next few years will provide unique opportunities for wetland managers to use cost analyses to make changes in water allocation policies. Federally subsidized water has supported and expanded agriculture at the expense of native wetlands for over 100 years in the western United States. This trend must be reversed if these wetlands and their fish and wildlife populations are to survive.

Keywords: Wetlands, irrigated agriculture, irrigation drainage, wildlife, migratory waterfowl, fisheries, contaminants, trace elements, selenium

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Lemly, A. Dennis 1994. Irrigated agriculture and freshwater wetlands: A struggle for coexistence in the western United States. Wetlands Ecology and Management vol. 3 no I pp. 3-15


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