Feasibility Study of the Effects of Water Quality on Soil Properties in the Red River Valley

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Texas Water Resources Institute

The suitability of water for irrigation depends upon many factors, of primary concern is the quantity and quality of salts present in the water Ayers and Wescot1. If total dissolved solids in the irrigation water are too high, salts accumulate in the crop root zone to the extent that yields are reduced. Excessive soil salinity means the crops have difficulty extracting water from the soil solution.

The other problems with respect to salinity are concerned with the effects of water quality on permeability of soil to water. The effects of specific ions such as Na or lack of salts in the water can reduce permeability to the extent that crops are not adequately supplied with water and yields are reduced. As pointed out by Rhoades and Ingvalson > and Frenkel, Goertzen and Rhoades2 one of the major factors affecting the suitability of water for irrigation is its sodicity hazard usually expressed as SAR. According to these investigators, our greatest limitation in assessing the sodium hazard is our inability to predict how the water will affect soil structure and permeability. This may be because soil structural stability or instability is a function of many factors. The effect of Na on soil structure can be modified by other soil properties such as texture, organic matter, etc.

In Texas, Naghshineh-Pour, Kunze and Carson (6) stated that sodium absorption ratio (SAR), exchangeable Na percentage (ESP), electrolyte concentration, clay content, free iron oxides and clay mineral species are important factors involved in permeability of selected soils. Saffaf (9) noted the decrease of unsaturated hydraulic conductivity with decreasing electrolyte concentrations and increasing the SAR (sodium absorption ratio) of the soil solution was especially pronounced for swelling clay soils.

Water in the Red River Basin is often high in salinity and in sodium concentrations (high SAR). Studies evaluated the influences of present and "predicted after reclamation" dissolved solids (TDS) and SAR on permeability of different soils in the Red River Basin. These studies should give some insight as to the effect of present levels of SAR on soil structure and permeability. It was also the purpose of this investigation to evaluate the effects of reduced SAR and total dissolved solids(TDS) on soil permeability. The permeability to rainfall (low TDS) of soils leached with different levels of SAR and salinity was simulated and determined in the laboratory.

1 Contributions of Texas AGM Research and Extension Center at Chillicothe-Vernon, Dallas, Munday and Texas A&M Water Resources Institute; College Station and supported in part by the Tulsa District, U.S. Corps of Engineers.

2 Professor, Chillicothe-Vernon; Associate Professor, Dallas; Director, Water Resources Institute, College Station; Research Engineer, Munday; and formerly Professor, Chillicothe-Vernon.