Recycling irrigation reservoirs (RIRs) are an emerging aquatic ecosystem of critical importance, for conserving and protecting increasingly scarce water resources. Here, we compare water quality between runoff entrance and middle of four RIRs in nurseries in Virginia (VA) and Maryland (MD). Surface water temperature (T) and oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) were lower in the middle than at the entrance, while the trend was opposite for dissolved oxygen (DO), pH and chlorophyll a
(Chla). The magnitude of these differences between the entrance and middle decreased with increasing depth. These differences were magnified by water stratification from April to October. Minimum differences were observed for electrical conductivity (EC), total dissolved solids (TDS) and turbidity (TUR). Cluster analyses were performed on water quality difference data to evaluate whether the differences vary with respect to reservoirs. Two clusters were formed with one consisting primarily of VA reservoirs, and the other consisting mostly of MD reservoirs in both years. Water quality in the middle and at the entrance of RIRs was expected to vary greatly because of runoff inflow. The two-point water quality differences observed here, although statistically significant, are not large enough to cause significant impact on crop health and productivity for most water quality parameters except pH. Additional analysis of outlet data shows that the range and magnitude of water quality difference between the middle and the outlet are comparable to those between the middle and entrance of RIRs. These results indicate that monitoring at a single point is sufficient to obtain reliable water quality estimates for most water quality parameters in RIRs except pH. This is important when considering the cost of labor and equipment necessary for documenting water quality in agricultural production systems. However, additional pH measurements are still necessary to make practical water quality management decisions.
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