Special Issue "Desalination of Seawater for Agricultural Irrigation"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water, Agriculture and Aquaculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Victoriano Martínez-Alvarez
Website
Guest Editor
Agricultural Engineering Centre, Technical University of Cartagena, Spain
Interests: agricultural water management, water desalination for agriculture, irrigation-districts management, evaporation, agricultural ponds, evaporation mitigation in reservoirs, water–energy nexus in irrigated agriculture
Dr. Asher Bar-Tal
Website
Guest Editor
Agricultural Research Organization, The Volcani Center, Israel
Interests: soil chemistry, plant nutrition, irrigation with treated waste-water and desalinated water, soilless culture, greenhouse gases emissions from soil
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Jose Francisco Maestre-Valero
Website
Guest Editor
Agricultural Engineering Centre, Technical University of Cartagena, Spain
Interests: water quality in reservoirs, evaporation mitigation in reservoirs, life-cycle analisys, non-conventional water resources management
Dr. Francisco Javier Díaz Peña
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Animal Biology, Soil Science and Geology, University of La Laguna, Spain
Interests: agricultural use of non-conventional water resources, design and management of cropping systems in arid land

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Agriculture faces the challenge to produce more food to feed the world’s growing population, and irrigation is increasingly important to cope with the required agricultural production. The pressure on water resources is becoming more severe, leading to imbalances between renewable resources and total demands. This jeopardises irrigated agriculture as a non-preferential water use and gives rise to the demand for non-conventional water resources in irrigated agriculture, especially in arid and semi-arid developed countries.

Large-scale supply with desalinated seawater (DSW) has emerged in the last decade as an alternative water-source for sustaining agricultural production in some Mediterranean coastal regions facing persistent water-scarcity and growing high-return crops, as well as in islands lacking fresh-water resources. It represents a steady water-source that effectively removes climatological and hydrological constraints. Consequently, its adoption is increasingly being considered as an alternative water supply for crop irrigation, and this trend is expected to intensify in the near future. However, some certain limiting factors that could become a barrier to DSW spread for crop irrigation, such as high production and allocation energy-requirements, associated greenhouse-gas emissions, and the impact of the high cost of DSW on the farming economy, must be considered. Moreover, there are other agronomic concerns such as the low nutrient concentration of DSW and the consequent increase in the fertigation cost, the crop toxicity risk due to high boron-concentration and cation and anion imbalances, or the sodicity risk affecting soil’s physical properties. Therefore, a great deal of experience and further research are still required to promote reliable, sustainable, and profitable agricultural DSW use.

In this context, this Special Issue of Water is devoted to the research opportunities that this new agricultural irrigation source affords. It is a call for innovative research papers that present irrigation experiences with DSW and advance challenges and new perspectives on this topic. Research will focus on:

  • Demonstrative study cases of DSW regional supply for crop irrigation
  • Experimental crop trials analysing productivity, production quality, and other agronomic concerns of DSW use
  • Agronomic water quality assessment of DSW supplies
  • On-farm water-management strategies for promoting the sustainability of DSW use
  • Models and decision-support systems for optimising DSW use together with other water sources
  • Innovative management technologies for irrigation with DSW
  • Adaptation of fertilization to irrigation with DSW
  • The water–energy nexus of DSW and effects on agriculture carbon footprint
  • DSW cost, price, and impact on the farming economy of specific irrigation areas
  • An assessment of the socio-economic impact of agricultural DSW use
  • Studies focused on irrigation with (1) reclaimed water entirely produced from urban DSW supplies or (2) desalinated highly saline water from coastal aquifers with seawater intrusion are also welcome.

Prof. Victoriano Martínez-Alvarez
Dr. Asher Bar-Tal
Dr. Jose Francisco Maestre-Valero
Dr. Francisco Javier Díaz Peña
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Desalinated seawater
  • Irrigation water quality
  • On-farm water management
  • Fertilization
  • Water blending
  • Soil sodicity
  • Fitotoxicity
  • Water–energy nexus
  • Greenhouse-gas emissions
  • Economic viability
  • Socio-economic impact
  • Water cost and price
  • Models and decision-support systems

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
How to Close the Gap of Desalinated Seawater for Agricultural Irrigation? Confronting Attitudes between Managers and Farmers in Alicante and Murcia (Spain)
Water 2020, 12(4), 1132; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12041132 - 15 Apr 2020
Abstract
Although desalination water cost and quality standards have been widely studied, less attention has been paid to understanding how desalination plant managers and irrigation communities interact to address water scarcity. This paper aims to approach these questions from experience in Alicante and Murcia [...] Read more.
Although desalination water cost and quality standards have been widely studied, less attention has been paid to understanding how desalination plant managers and irrigation communities interact to address water scarcity. This paper aims to approach these questions from experience in Alicante and Murcia (Spain). Two specific questionnaires have been applied to (1) three desalination plants managed by the Spanish public company ACUAMED, and (2) 11 irrigation communities who use desalinated seawater. Discursive analysis has been applied in order to deepen understanding on the driving factors, benefits, and barriers of desalination use and management. Results highlighted how (1) irrigation communities consider desalination as a complementary water source to be combined with conventional water resources, (2) both ACUAMED and irrigation communities highlighted two main advantages of desalination: the security/guarantee of supply and water quality parameters, and (3) managers and irrigators disagree on the desalination model of seawater provision and management, since irrigators consider that the Central Union of the Tajo-Segura transfer irrigators (SCRATS) should have a leading role. In addition, the main driving factors and barriers useful for policy makers when closing the gap of desalination have been identified: water price and energy consumption; lack of water storage capacity and regulation; environmental impacts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Desalination of Seawater for Agricultural Irrigation)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Effects of Irrigation with Desalinated Seawater and Hydroponic System on Tomato Quality
Water 2020, 12(2), 518; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12020518 - 13 Feb 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The use of desalinated seawater (DSW) as an alternative to conventional water resources is gradually gaining more interest due to the strong water deficit and increasing pressure on water resources in semi-arid regions. Furthermore, the combination of this alternative irrigation with the hydroponic [...] Read more.
The use of desalinated seawater (DSW) as an alternative to conventional water resources is gradually gaining more interest due to the strong water deficit and increasing pressure on water resources in semi-arid regions. Furthermore, the combination of this alternative irrigation with the hydroponic cultivation system would allow continuous production almost through the whole year and hydroponic-related high crop yield. Nevertheless, the effects of DSW irrigation in hydroponic systems on the product quality need to be firstly studied to avoid product quality losses. In this study, we evaluated the effects on the quality of two tomato cvs. (Ramyle and Racymo) of three different irrigation treatments (T1, DSW; T2, DSW/well water mix; and T3, well water) under hydroponic or traditional cultivation systems. The soluble solid content of samples (highly correlated to dry matter content) grown under hydroponic conditions and T3 irrigation showed the highest values (5.8 °Brix) although such differences (<0.6 °Brix) with T1 might not be sensorially appreciated. Similarly, although T3 samples showed higher acidity than T1 samples, such differences (0.06%) would be not appreciated by the consumer. Tomatoes grown in hydroponic conditions had 1.1–1.2-fold higher firmness than conventional soil conditions showing hydroponic T3 samples had the highest value (21–23 N). Tomato cv. Racymo displayed higher color index (chroma) than cv. Ramyle, registering hydroponic T1 samples the most intense red color correlated with the highest lycopene content of 41.1 mg/kg. T1 irrigation of tomatoes cv. Ramyle did not induce significant changes while differences lower than 10% were observed in the tomato cv. Racymo. The highest total antioxidant capacity, which was highly correlated to the total phenolic content (R2 = 0.80), was found for hydroponic T1 samples with 1637/1243 µmol/kg for the tomato cvs. Ramyle/Racymo. Conclusively, the use of DSW would not compromise the consumer acceptance of tomatoes due to the low (not appreciable) quality differences, with even the total antioxidant capacity of these samples being increased. Furthermore, the mix of DSW with conventional water resources (lower cost) would not compromise the tomato quality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Desalination of Seawater for Agricultural Irrigation)
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Open AccessArticle
Technical and Agronomical Assessment of the Use of Desalinated Seawater for Coastal Irrigation in an Insular Context
Water 2020, 12(1), 272; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010272 - 17 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The growing need for alternative water resources for irrigation has led to advanced technological developments, which are addressing some of the challenges that our planet is facing regarding the water supply. The Canary Islands Archipelago (Spain) is a singular territory with several years [...] Read more.
The growing need for alternative water resources for irrigation has led to advanced technological developments, which are addressing some of the challenges that our planet is facing regarding the water supply. The Canary Islands Archipelago (Spain) is a singular territory with several years of desalination experience while using desalinated seawater (DSW) for agricultural purposes. The current paper will address the conducted research of one of the case studies done into the Horizon 2020 project MAGIC, with the aim of analyzing the use of DSW for crop production in the Southeast of Gran Canaria Island. A methodology of surveying farmers in the area has been put in practice, as well as an assessment of potential soil degradation risks that are related to DSW irrigation (with fifteen years of DSW data). Additionally, local good practices to improve the DSW quality for irrigation are discussed. This study demonstrates an excellent endorsement of the surveyed farmers in the studied area regarding the use of DSW for irrigation: the strategy of combining this type of water with other water resources, such as groundwater and/or reclaimed water is very frequent and it can guarantee water and food security in the island’s territory. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Desalination of Seawater for Agricultural Irrigation)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Short-Term Response of Young Mandarin Trees to Desalinated Seawater Irrigation
Water 2020, 12(1), 159; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010159 - 04 Jan 2020
Abstract
Water deficit and increasing pressure on water resources in semi-arid regions has led to the spread of irrigation with non-conventional water resources, such as desalinated seawater (DSW). The few existent studies to date, mainly carried out in Israel and Spain, have shown that [...] Read more.
Water deficit and increasing pressure on water resources in semi-arid regions has led to the spread of irrigation with non-conventional water resources, such as desalinated seawater (DSW). The few existent studies to date, mainly carried out in Israel and Spain, have shown that suitable management of irrigation with DSW must be performed to avoid agronomic problems and reductions in crop productivity and fruit quality in the mid-long term. To the best of our knowledge, in the case of citrus, fruit production, and quality, information on the effects of DSW irrigation is not available. In this study, we evaluated the short-term agronomic and economic effects of irrigating a mandarin orchard during two crop cycles (2017–2019) with (i) fresh water (FW), (ii) desalinated seawater (DSW), and (iii) a mix of water composed of 50% FW and 50% DSW. Stem water potential (Ψs < −1 MPa) and gas exchange parameters (net photosynthesis; A > 6.5 µmol/m2/s and stomatal conductance; gs > 65 mmol/m2/s) indicated that trees were well irrigated throughout the experiment. The concentration of Na+ and B3+ in the DSW always exceeded the maximum thresholds for irrigation water proposed in the literature for citrus, and the concentration of Na+ in the leaves exceeded the maximum threshold in summer 2018. Nonetheless, symptoms of toxicity were not observed. Significant differences among treatments were not observed for Ψstem, A, gs, Na+, Cl, and B3+ in leaves (except in the summer months), yield components, fruit quality, or the economic assessment. The lack of such differences was explained by the large standard deviations caused by the youth of the trees, with figures that on occasion could represent more than 100% of the mean value. These results may justify the agronomic and economic viability of the irrigation of young trees with DSW in the short-term, but further research, considering the effects on adult trees in the long term is still needed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Desalination of Seawater for Agricultural Irrigation)
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Sustainable Irrigation Using Non-Conventional Resources: What has Happened after 30 Years Regarding Boron Phytotoxicity?
Water 2019, 11(9), 1952; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11091952 - 19 Sep 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
In the Canary Islands, there is a hydrological imbalance between water consumption and renewable water availability. To provide more water resources, reverse osmosis (RO) from seawater is used. As boron (B) contents in irrigation water higher than 0.7 mg/L may be dangerous for [...] Read more.
In the Canary Islands, there is a hydrological imbalance between water consumption and renewable water availability. To provide more water resources, reverse osmosis (RO) from seawater is used. As boron (B) contents in irrigation water higher than 0.7 mg/L may be dangerous for sensible plants, B concentration in RO water (ROW) may be one of the key factors of irrigation sustainability. Some orchards have been studied after they have used drip irrigation using different water qualities for 30 years. B in water, soils, and banana leaves was determined to check the sustainability of ROW irrigation. When irrigating with ROW, in which B concentration varies between 1.0 and 1.4 mgB/L, B content in banana soils seems to be stabilized at 5–7 mg/kg, and no toxicity has been observed in banana leaves. The proper water and soil management used by the local farmers probably prevent the accumulation of higher B levels in soils. Considering water consumption of 9000 m3∙ha−1∙year−1, 8−11 kgB∙ha−1∙year−1 is applied to the soil. The banana plant removes approximately 1 kgB∙ha−1∙year−1; therefore, only 10% of the total B added gets exported. This raises the following question: is it better to use membranes that are able to reduce B in ROW, increase the leaching fraction, or blend water? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Desalination of Seawater for Agricultural Irrigation)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Characterization of the Agricultural Supply of Desalinated Seawater in Southeastern Spain
Water 2019, 11(6), 1233; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11061233 - 13 Jun 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
The increasing shortage of water for crop irrigation in arid and semiarid regions is encouraging the use of non-conventional resources. In the last decade, seawater desalination has consolidated its position as an alternative source to increase the supply for agricultural irrigation in Spain [...] Read more.
The increasing shortage of water for crop irrigation in arid and semiarid regions is encouraging the use of non-conventional resources. In the last decade, seawater desalination has consolidated its position as an alternative source to increase the supply for agricultural irrigation in Spain and Israel, where the farmers’ acceptance is progressively rising, despite the supply price being much higher than that of other conventional water sources. This article describes the current situation of desalinated seawater production and supply to agriculture in the southeast of Spain, and analyzes key questions such as its role in regional water planning, the infrastructure needed for conveyance and distribution, the energy requirements, the production and distribution costs, and the final price to farmers. The study is based on descriptive and quantitative data collected from desalination plants and irrigation district managers through technical questionnaires and personal interviews. The results show how seawater desalination is effectively alleviating the regional constraints in the irrigated agriculture supply, and why it is becoming strategic to maintaining food production and socioeconomic development. However, the high-energy requirements and associated costs in comparison with other water sources limit a more widespread use for agriculture, and for this reason desalinated water still only plays a complementary role in most irrigation districts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Desalination of Seawater for Agricultural Irrigation)
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Open AccessArticle
Using Desalinated Water for Irrigation: Its Effect on Field Scale Water Flow and Contaminant Transport under Cropped Conditions
Water 2019, 11(4), 687; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11040687 - 03 Apr 2019
Cited by 2
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Desalination of Seawater for Agricultural Irrigation)
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