Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): A. Dennis Lemly
    Date: 1994
    Source: Wetlands Ecology and Management vol. 3 no I pp. 3-15
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (749 KB)


    This paper is a review of the major environmental problems associated with irrigated agriculture in the western United States. Freshwater wetlands are being contaminated by subsurface agricultural irrigation drainage in many locations. Historic freshwater inflows have been diverted for agricultural use, and remain- ing freshwater supplies are not sufficient to maintain these important natural areas once they are degraded by irrigation drainage. Migratory birds have been poisoned by drainwater contaminants on at least six national wildlife refuges; waterfowl populations are threatened in the Pacific and Central flyways. Revised water allocation policies and regulatory actions are probably necessary to correct existing damage and prevent future problems. The benefits of maintaining healthy wetlands should be used as a rationale for negotiating increases in freshwater supplies. Cost analyses that show the importance of wetlands in dollar values are critical to the success of these negotiations. The next few years will provide unique opportunities for wetland managers to use cost analyses to make changes in water allocation policies. Federally subsidized water has supported and expanded agriculture at the expense of native wetlands for over 100 years in the western United States. This trend must be reversed if these wetlands and their fish and wildlife populations are to survive.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Lemly, A. Dennis. 1994. Irrigated agriculture and freshwater wetlands: A struggle for coexistence in the western United States. Wetlands Ecology and Management vol. 3 no I pp. 3-15


    Wetlands, irrigated agriculture, irrigation drainage, wildlife, migratory waterfowl, fisheries, contaminants, trace elements, selenium

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page