Saltcedar presents threat to western water supplies, report says

Across the Western United States, laws exist to protect water rights. Yet, in some regions, a thief violates those laws daily by hogging water. That thief is saltcedar, a new report says.

ODESSA, Texas, Oct. 8, 2001 — Across the Western United States, laws exist to protect water rights. Yet, in some regions, a thief violates those laws daily by hogging water. That thief is saltcedar.

Also known as tamarisk, saltcedar was brought to the United States as an ornamental plant and became widely used for erosion control. With its aggressive root system and its ability to produce several thousand seeds per flower, saltcedar quickly established itself. Now the tree, which can use up to 200 gallons of water per day and excretes salt through its leaves, threatens fragile water supplies across the Western United States.

Due to the weather and topography, the West has extremely limited water resources available to support the increasing population influx, as well as existing agricultural and wildlife needs.

Saltcedar infests areas around waterways, including irrigation ditches and those with high water tables, reducing flow and depth in surface water while lowering groundwater tables. In addition, the tree excretes salt, increasing the salinity of surrounding water and soil. The result is displacement and endangerment of native plants and wildlife, as well as destruction of pastureland and rangeland. Dense saltcedar infestation can also cause damming of waterways, increasing the likelihood of flooding. Under drought conditions, the tree causes additional stress to water systems, while increasing the threat and intensity of wildfires.

Experiments are underway to control saltcedar and determine the effects that control of the species has on water resources. One program, the Pecos River Ecosystem Project, will be the subject of a research presentation and tour this week near Odessa, Texas. To control saltcedar, the project has used Arsenal® herbicide, manufactured by BASF, under a 24 © local needs exemption. Use of Arsenal has proven effective, offering up to 95 percent control of saltcedar in treated areas.

The BASF Agricultural Products business in North America, Specialty Products Department, markets a wide range of innovative products and active ingredients for the forestry, turf, ornamental, pest control and industrial vegetation markets. Its headquarters are in Research Triangle Park, N.C. It is a unit of the BASF Global Agricultural Products Division located in Mount Olive, N.J. BASF Specialty Products Department can also be found on the Internet at www.4vegmgt.com.

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