Summary and Info
Jan van Schilfgaarde, USDA Agricultural Research Service and National Research Council Committee on Irrigation-Induced Water Quality Problems In 1982, a startling discovery was made. Many waterbirds in Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge were dying or suffering reproductive failure. Located in the San Joaquin Valley (Valley) of California, the Kesterson Reservoir (Kesterson) was used to store agricultural drainage water and it was soon determined that the probable cause of the damage to wildlife was high concen trations of selenium, derived from the water and water organisms in the reservoir. This discovery drastically changed numerous aspects of water management in California, and especially affected irrigated agriculture. In fact, the repercussions spilled over to much of the Western United States. For a century, water development for irrigation has been a religiously pursued means for economic development of the West. The primary objective of the Reclamation Act of 1902 was, purportedly, the development ofirrigation water to support family farms which, in turn, would enhance the regional economy (Worster, 1985).
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