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Dairy Lagoon Water BMPs

Developing Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Applying Dairy Lagoon Water to Forage Crops in Stanislaus County, CA, 2006 - 2009

Collaborating Organizations:
Bachand & Associates, UC. Davis Land Air Water Resources, U.C. Cooperative Extension and East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District

Funding Organization:
State Water Resources Control Board, Proposition 50 Dairy Water Quality Program


Project Description:

Nutrient leaching from dairy farms into groundwater is a serious problem in the Central Valley.  Elevated groundwater nitrate levels from dairy lagoon water applications pose a human health problem and raise environmental concerns. 

Bachand & Associates is working with U.C. Davis, the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District, and individual farmers to develop dairy Best Management Practices (BMPs) to more efficiently recycle nutrients on dairies and to help control groundwater contamination from nutrients and salts. 

The project is utilizing a combination of laboratory and field experiments to investigate the fate, transport, and cycling of nitrogen applied to silage crops. The study includes quantifying and understanding year-round surface and vadose zone hydrology of silage fields, developing hydrologic and nitrogen budgets for fields, quantifying mineralization rates of lagoon water and soil organic nitrogen, and determining the availability of inorganic and organic nitrogen in lagoon water and modeling nitrogen cycling using the USDA Root Zone Water Quality Model (RZWQM). This study will recommend BMPs to better manage lagoon water applications based upon data and model results.
Bachand & Associates has been the primary science team contact with the East Stanislaus RCD and worked with the other collaborators in designing the field experiments.  We are responsible for the hydrologic and modeling aspects of this study.  We utilize a combination of Area Velocity Meters (AVMs), soil probes, pressure transducers, on-site precipitation data, irrigation district records and California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) data to understand the field hydrology.  We have been the primary liaison with farmers, interviewing them regularly to understand their cultural practices.  Working closely with the USDA model developers, Bachand & Associates is utilizing the RZWQM to model nitrogen transport and cycling.