Agricultural Water Testing Project Back »

Written collaboratively by David Kringen and Anthony Bly.


Subsurface drainage water can look clean to the eye when coming out the end of a pipe. However, it doesn’t always mean it is. Tile water can carry with it high concentrations of dissolved nutrients such as nitrate-nitrogen which can contribute to the eutrophication of surface water. Eutrophication can be defined as the enrichment of a water body with nutrients; stimulating the growth of aquatic plants and depleting the dissolved oxygen content of the water as the plants decompose.

Water Education Project

Details for a new water education project involving SD Corn, the East Dakota Water Development District (WDD), the James River WDD, the Vermillion Basin WDD, and SDSU Extension are currently in the final stages of development. Participants attending one of three educational events this summer will be encouraged to bring water samples to have a nitrate-nitrogen test completed on-site for their own information. The goals of the pilot project are to:

  • Educate participants about the potential for nutrient loss in surface runoff and/or subsurface drainage.
  • Provide information about potential economic and environmental impacts associated with elevated nutrient losses.
  • Provide information on best management practices aimed to reduce nitrogen loading from agricultural land to South Dakota lakes and streams.

Upcoming Workshops

The nutrient testing program is meant to be entirely voluntary and confidential. The purpose of the project is to educate landowners, producers, agronomists, and other stakeholders on nutrient management, water quality, and soil health. The first event will be held in conjunction with the Integrated Pest Management Field School at the SDSU Southeast Research Farm near Beresford, SD on July 19-20, 2017. The second event will be held in conjunction with the SDSU Volga Research Farm Field Day on July 26. The date and location of the third event has yet to be determined.

While nitrate testing of tile drainage water was the primary driver of this program, water samples taken from other sources such as a well (drinking and/or livestock) or a ditch or stream will be welcomed. Stay tuned for further details regarding the program as the summer events draw near.

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