Submitted to: Southwest Hydrology
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/28/2008
Publication Date: 3/10/2008
Publication URL: http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/53102000/pdf_pubs/P2261.pdf
Citation: Suarez, D.L. 2008. Salinity Management in Agriculture. Southwest Hydrology. 7(2):20-21. Interpretive Summary: In the past few years a looming water scarcity has resulted in questioning of the long term future of many irrigation projects in arid and semi- arid regions. In addition many of these projects in the southwestern U.S. face increasing regulation of their drainage water and its discharge to surface waters. In many instances irrigation drainage water can be reused, providing additional water for irrigation and reducing the disposal volumes as well as reducing the discharge load of many elements of concern to regulators. Additionally, treated municipal waste water can be used to irrigated most crops currently grown in the region. Revised water quality criteria need to include consideration of specific ion toxicity and ion ratios when evaluating crop response to saline and brackish waters.
Technical Abstract: Existing guidelines and standards for reclamation of saline soils and management to control salinity exist but have not been updated for over 25 years. In the past few years a looming water scarcity has resulted in questioning of the long term future of irrigation projects in arid and semi arid regions. Irrigated acreage is already declining due to competition for scarce resources. Desalination is not a likely option for agriculture due to high water production costs, related primarily to energy consumption. In addition many of these projects face increasing regulation of their drainage water and its discharge to surface waters. Looking beyond high quality fresh water resources, there are numerous water supplies that can be utilized to sustain irrigated agriculture, primarily treated municipal waste water, brackish ground water and agricultural drainage water. These water supplies can be productively managed but require application of improved salinity management technologies, development of new crop varieties, and treatment processes that consider the needs of users. New technologies include remote sensing of salinity for rapid salinity assessment, revised water quality criteria and consideration of specific ion toxicity and ion ratios when evaluating crop response to saline and brackish waters.