Estimation of Tile Drainage Contribution to Streamflow and Nutrient Export Loads

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 11:50
3024 (Moscone West)
Antonio Arenas Amado1, Keith E Schilling2, Christopher S Jones3 and Larry J Weber3, (1)IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering, Iowa City, IA, United States, (2)Organization Not Listed, Washington, DC, United States, (3)University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, United States
Subsurface drainage is a very common practice in the agricultural U.S. Midwest. It is typically installed in poorly drained soils in order to enhance crop yields. The presence of tile drains creates a route for agrichemicals to travel and therefore negatively impacts stream water quality. This study estimated through end-member analyses the contributions of tile drainage, groundwater, and surface runoff to streamflow at the watershed scale based on continuously monitored data. Especial attention was devoted to quantifying tile drainage impact on watershed streamflow and nutrient export loads. Data analyzed includes streamflow, rainfall, soil moisture, shallow groundwater levels, in-stream nitrate+nitrite concentrations and specific conductance. Data were collected at a HUC12 watershed located in Northeast Iowa, USA. Approximately 60% of the total watershed area is devoted to agricultural activities and forest and grassland are the other two predominant land uses. Results show that approximately 20% of total annual streamflow comes from tile drainage and during rainfall events tile drainage contribution can go up to 30%. Furthermore, for most of the analyzed rainfall events groundwater responded faster and in a more dramatic fashion than tile drainage. The State of Iowa is currently carrying out a plan to reduce nutrients in Iowa waters and the Gulf of Mexico (Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy). The outcome of this investigation has the potential to assist in Best Management Practice (BMP) scenario selection and therefore help the state achieve water quality goals.