Water Quality Standards
Today, the EPA is working harder to quantify and reduce sources of non-point pollution. This is primarily accomplished by encouraging or requiring people to engage in pre-determined best management practice (BMP). A variety of water BMPs are available through your local Colorado State University (CSU) Extension Office.
Water Quality for Livestock
Although most livestock can tolerate water quality that may be unsuitable for human consumption, very poor water quality can impact livestock health, reproduction and performance. If the water quality of your livestock’s drinking water is unknown, it should be tested for salinity, pH, sulfate, nitrate and potential toxic elements such as selenium. Elevated metals or salts, for example, can cause a variety of health and reproduction problems, and pregnant or lactating animals may be more susceptible. If a water test report shows that the water contains toxins at levels too high for livestock, treatment or an alternate source of water may be necessary.
Irrigation Water Quality
Irrigation water with high salinity levels may be a problem in areas of Western Colorado. Using excessively saline irrigation water can stunt plant growth and increase the total salt content of the soil. Plants watered with highly saline water tend to wilt, even though they appear to be receiving plenty of moisture. Too much salt in irrigation water prevents sufficient water from being absorbed by the roots. To alleviate the level of salt in your irrigation water, it is important to understand the salinity, electrical conductivity (EC), and total dissolved solids. Your water can also be tested to determine whether it contains concentrations of other potentially harmful constituents. Under some conditions, irrigation water with a high pH (8 or higher) may also limit the nutrient availability of the soil. Other elements of potential concern are chloride and boron. Your local Extension Office can help you conduct an analysis of your water.
It is additionally as important to understand proper irrigation management principles. Consider consulting with a CSU Extension Irrigation Specialist to determine the appropriate irrigation management practices for your individual field conditions.