Science, Policy, and Management of Irrigation-Induced Selenium Contamination in California
Published Web Locationhttps://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/jeq/articles/42/6/1605
Selenium was recognized as an important aquatic contaminant following the identification of widespread deformities in waterfowl at the agricultural drainage evaporation ponds of the Kesterson Reservoir (California) in 1983. Since then, California has been the focal point for global research and management of Se contamination. We analyzed the history and current developments in science, policy, and management of irrigation-induced Se contamination in California. In terms of management, we evaluated the effects of improvements in the design of local attenuation methods (drainage reuse and evaporation ponds) in conjunction with the development of programs for Se load reductions at the regional scale (namely the Grassland Bypass Project). In terms of policy, the USEPA is currently working on site-specific water quality criteria for the San Francisco Bay Delta that may be a landmark for future legislation on Se in natural water bodies. We provide a critical analysis of this approach and discuss challenges and opportunities in expanding it to other locations such as the Salton Sea. Management lessons learned in California and the novel policy approach may help prevent future events of Se contamination.