EM-117 Best Management Practices for Water Quality: Agriculture in the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Authors: A. Berthold

The Arroyo Colorado Watershed is 706 square miles and runs from McAllen to the Lower Laguna Madre. The water body is impaired for dissolved oxygen, bacteria and legacy pollutants. In 2007, local stakeholders developed and published A Watershed Protection Plan for the Arroyo Colorado Phase I that identifies strategies to address water quality issues. The plan is currently being implemented throughout the watershed.

Agricultural production comprises almost half of the land within the Arroyo Colorado Watershed. A goal of the watershed protection plan is to have best management practices (BMPs) implemented on half of the irrigated agricultural lands by 2015. Runoff from these agricultural lands carries nutrients and sediments, which contribute to the above impairments in the Arroyo Colorado.

A BMP is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. In addition, a BMP can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered. BMPs designed to reduce nutrient and pesticide runoff from agricultural land have been implemented in the Arroyo Colorado watershed on a producer-by-producer, voluntary basis. There are many state and federal programs that can provide funding and assistance for implementing BMPs.