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Using Desalinated Water for Irrigation: Its Effect on Field Scale Water Flow and Contaminant Transport under Cropped Conditions

Department of Environmental Physics and Irrigation, Institute of Soils, Water and Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Research Organization, The Volcani Center, Rishon LeZion 7505101, Israel
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Water 2019, 11(4), 687; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11040687
Received: 6 February 2019 / Revised: 20 March 2019 / Accepted: 27 March 2019 / Published: 3 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Desalination of Seawater for Agricultural Irrigation)
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Abstract

Pollution of groundwater by nitrate originating from irrigated fields was considered for this study. We hypothesized that under cropped conditions, low-salinity irrigation water (e.g., desalinated water) could reduce nitrate leaching below the root zone, due to two possible mechanisms: (i) decreased vertical water fluxes and (ii) increased nitrogen uptake by plant roots due to chloride–nitrate competition. The main goal of this study was to investigate this hypothesis. Considering a citrus grove, the investigation relied on three-dimensional (3-D) simulations of flow and transport in a variably saturated and spatially heterogeneous flow domain performed for three successive years. Results of the analyses suggest that the main mechanism responsible for the reduction in the nitrate leached below the root zone under irrigation with low-salinity water is the effect of the latter on the spatial distribution of the rate of water uptake by the roots. The latter, in turn, significantly reduces water content, hydraulic conductivity, and vertical velocity, and, consequently, solute mass fluxes along the soil profile. On the other hand, chloride–nitrate interaction has only a relatively small effect on the nitrate mass fluxes at relatively deep soil depths, far below the root zone, particularly when the irrigation water salinity decreases. View Full-Text
Keywords: irrigation with desalinated vs. saline water; 3-D simulations; variably saturated flow and transport; nitrate leaching; chloride–nitrate competition; spatially heterogeneous soil irrigation with desalinated vs. saline water; 3-D simulations; variably saturated flow and transport; nitrate leaching; chloride–nitrate competition; spatially heterogeneous soil
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Russo, D.; Kurtzman, D. Using Desalinated Water for Irrigation: Its Effect on Field Scale Water Flow and Contaminant Transport under Cropped Conditions. Water 2019, 11, 687.

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