Lab and Field Quantification of Seepage in Colorado Irrigation Canals: Phase II

A large amount of water diverted for irrigated agriculture in the Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River Basin seeps from earthen canals during conveyance to irrigated fields and results in a variety of environmental and economic damages. Canal seepage not only leads to water loss, but also contributes to mobilization and transport of subsurface pollutants and to shallow saline water tables which reduce crop yields. The cost of lining canals with conventional materials (concrete, geomembranes, etc.) is usually prohibitive and can exceed the benefits in many agricultural applications. Thus, there is a need for a seepage control technology that (i) leads to marked reduction in losses and related agro-environmental damages, (ii) is cost-effective, (iii) is easy to apply, and (iv) can allow groundwater recharge when needed.

This project proposes to enhance and continue the Extension component of an Colorado Agricultural Experimentation Station (CAES) funded research project to evaluate the promise of biopolymer sealants to reduce seepage from unlined irrigation canals in Northern Colorado. During our 2021 Extension Internship project, our student intern Rehman Lund interacted with the stakeholders of the agricultural community about the benefits of the canal sealing efforts, developed good working relationship with a canal company that will lead to potential research projects in the future, completed a field test demonstrating about 70% reduction in seepage, and presented the findings at the poster showcase event of the Extension program.

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