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Reduction of Suspended Solid and Nutrient Loss from Agricultural Lands by Tailwater Recovery Systems

Omer, A. R., Miranda, L. E., Moore, M. T., Krutz, J., Prince Czarnecki, J. M., Kroger, R., Baker, B. H., Hogue, J., & Allen, P. J. (2018). Reduction of Suspended Solid and Nutrient Loss from Agricultural Lands by Tailwater Recovery Systems. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 73(3), 284-297. DOI:10.2489/jswc.73.3.284.


Best management practices are being implemented throughout the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley with the aim of alleviating pressures placed on downstream aquatic systems by sediment and nutrient losses from agricultural land; however, research evaluating the performance of tailwater recovery (TWR) systems, an increasingly important practice, is limited. This study evaluated the ability of TWR systems to retain sediment and nutrients draining from agricultural landscapes. Composite flow-based samples were collected during flow events (precipitation or irrigation) over a two-year period in six TWR systems. Performance was evaluated by comparing concentrations and loads in water entering TWR systems (i.e., runoff or influent)from agricultural fields to water overflow exiting TWR systems (effluent). Tailwater recovery systems did not reduce concentrations of solids and nutrients, but did reduce loads of solids, phosphorus (P), and nitrogen (N) by 43%, 32%, and 44%, respectively. Annual mean load reductions were 1,142 kg solids, 0.7 kg of P, and 3.8 kg of N. Performance of TWR systems was influenced by effluent volume, system fullness, time since the previous event, and capacity of the TWR system. Mechanistically, TWR systems retain runoff on the agricultural landscape, thereby reducing the amount of sediment and nutrients entering downstream waterbodies. System performance can be improved through manipulation of influential parameters.

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