Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Allen, Peter J.

Committee Member

Henderson, James E.

Committee Member

Krutz, L. Jason

Committee Member

Moore, Matthew T.

Committee Member

Kroger, Robert

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Forest Resources


Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture


Water conservation practices are being widely implemented to alleviate sediment and nutrient losses from agricultural land and unsustainable groundwater use for irrigation. Tailwater recovery (TWR) systems are conservation practices being implemented to collect and store runoff to reduce nutrient losses and provide a source of irrigation water. This collection of research is focused on evaluating TWR systems through the following actions: 1) investigate ability to reduce solids and nutrients delivery to downstream systems, 2) compare differences in solid and nutrient concentrations in surface water samples from TWR systems to irrigation water from a TWR systems; 3) determine the potential to irrigate water containing solids and nutrients; 4) quantify a water budget for TWR systems; 5) conduct cost and benefit analyses of TWR systems; and 6) analyze economic cost to reduce solids and nutrients and to retain water. Tailwater recovery systems did not significantly reduce concentrations of solids and nutrients; however, loads of solids, P, and N were significantly reduced by 43%, 32% and 44%, respectively. Mean nutrient loads per hectare available to be recycled onto the landscape were 0.20 kg ha-1 P and 0.86 kg ha-1 N. Water budget analyses show these systems save water for irrigation but were inefficient. Net present value (NPV) and benefit cost ratios were positive and >1 for producers who owned the land, but remained <1 if land was rented. However, beyond improvements to irrigation infrastructure, farms with a TWR system installed lost NPV of $51 to $328 per ha. Mean total cost to reduce solids using TWR systems ranged from $0 to $0.77 per kg, P was $0.61 to $3,315.72 per kg, and N was $0.13 to $396.44 per kg. The mean total cost to save water using TWR systems ranged from $189.73 to $628.23 per ML, compared to a mean cost of groundwater of $13.99 to $36.17 per ML. Mechanistically, TWR systems retain runoff on the agricultural landscape, thereby reducing the amount of sediment and nutrients entering downstream waterbodies and provide an additional source of water for irrigation; however, more cost-effective practices exist for nutrient reduction and providing water for irrigation.