Solar evaporator pond at the Mendota agroforestry demonstration site

Photo: Joe Skorupa, USFWS


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The need for agricultural wastewater disposal in the San Joaquin Valley is rapidly approaching a crisis point. One of the most feasible disposal alternatives at present, is the irrigation of various combinations of salt tolerant crops, shrubs, and trees with drainage wastewater.

Known as agroforestry, these plantations are wildlife magnets in the extensively cultivated landscape of the San Joaquin Valley. It is expected that the expansion of agroforestry sites will exponentially accelerate within in the next 5-10 years.

Our staff collected a small set of waterbird eggs from just two agroforestry sites in 1996. These collections yielded the highest rates of selenium-induced developmental deformities ever reported in the scientific literature (56 percent of 30 assessable bird embryos were deformed at one site).

In 2000, we initiated a broad scale assessment of wildlife use of agroforestry sites along with wildlife exposure and response to selenium.

Seen at right: Solar evaporator pond at the Mendota agroforestry demonstration site. In the background is a flowering field of safflower, one of the salt tolerant crops used for recycling agricultural drainage water in the agroforestry drainage reduction system.