Journal article

Impacts of irrigation with industrial treated wastewater on soil properties

Wastewater reuse in agriculture is a widespread practice in developing countries, especially in urban areas where water shortage and poverty encourage people to use that marginal resource. Raw or treated wastewaters are used by farmers, but even treated wastewaters frequently do not meet WHO and FAO standards for irrigation water. Such practices may lead to health hazards, relatively well documented in the literature and to environmental damages. Adverse environmental impacts such as soil degradation and groundwater contamination are frequently associated with the use of wastewater from industrial sources. Previous studies have demonstrated that wastewater irrigation may decrease soil hydraulic conductivity and infiltration rate. Nevertheless, the effects on soil structural and chemical behaviors have been little studied so far and need further investigations. The impacts of irrigation with alkaline and sodic industrial wastewater previously treated in microphyte ponds on soil physical and chemical properties were studied downstream the sewage treatment plant of Kossodo in Ouagadougou, on plots cropped with eggplants. Plots irrigated with fresh water and non cropped, non irrigated plots were used as controls. Different soil properties were characterized: pore volumes determined by using shrinkage analysis, pH and electrical conductivity of water extracts, and major soluble and exchangeable cations (Ca, Mg, K, and Na). Organic matter characterization was performed by means of three dimensional fluorescence spectra analysis to determine its origin and evolution on irrigated soils. Plots irrigated with wastewater showed important structural damages, especially in the subsurface horizon where the soil pore network collapsed dramatically, resulting in a compact impermeable layer. Fluorescence spectra revealed that the organic matter contained in the wastewater was largely dissolved due to a sharp soil pH increase, resulting in black alkali formation at the surface: the soil became sodic, with an exchange complex dominated by sodium, whereas plots irrigated with fresh water kept properties comparable to that of non irrigated plots. Such a rapid soil sodication was seldom reported so far. The study emphasizes the need to carefully examine irrigation water quality and particularly calcite residual alkalinity and suggests that shrinkage analysis could be used to monitor the physical changes of soil properties upon sodication. Inadequate wastewater quality is likely to cause deep and irreversible damages to irrigated soils. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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