Water-harvesting applications for rangelands revisited

TitleWater-harvesting applications for rangelands revisited
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsRango A., Havstad K
JournalEnvironmental Practice
Date PublishedJune 2009
ARIS Log Number230428
Keywordsharvesting, journal, water
AbstractAlthough water harvesting techniques have been used effectively in irrigated agriculture and domestic water supplies, there seems to have been little exploitation of the same techniques in arid and semiarid rangeland restoration. A review of the history of rangeland water harvesting allows identification of the methods that have been useful in the past and which would be likely effective in the future. It seems that relatively simple water harvesting approaches work best on rangelands including water ponding dikes to stimulate vegetation growth, stock tanks for livestock watering, and possibly the use of larger-scale water spreaders, although their complexity sometimes can lead to problems in operational use. Rangeland water harvesting in the southwest U.S. indicates that the approach is a long-term solution that produces significant vegetation growth generally after 10-15 years because of the sporadic and spatially distributed nature of the summer monsoon rainfall. Additionally, the use of water ponding dikes seems to most reliably produce an island of increased soil moisture and increased forage. Water ponding dikes are easy and relatively inexpensive to construct and produce a pattern of vegetation similar to naturally occurring banded vegetation. Even very shallow dikes (7.5cm) produce ponds and a significant vegetation response. Research needs to be done to see if the bands of vegetation behind the dikes will function like banded vegetation and expand to larger areas. As climate change continues to impact our water supply, the techniques of water harvesting will become a viable rangeland water conservation alternative in the future.