Assessment of long-term salinity changes in an irrigated stream-aquifer system

Water Resources Research
By:  and 



Changes in salinity in groundwater and surface water in the Arkansas River valley of southeastern Colorado are primarily related to irrigation practices. A solute transport model was applied to an 11-mile reach of the valley to compute salinity changes in response to spatially and temporally varying stresses. The model was calibrated in 1973 using detailed field measurements made during 1971 and 1972. In 1973 the calibrated model was used to predict that a gradual long-term increase in groundwater salinity of about 2–3% per year would occur if the observed irrigation practices continued. The study area was resampled during the winter of 1982 to help evaluate if any long-term changes in salinity are actually occurring. Nonparametric and parametric statistical tests were used to help assess the significance of observed changes in groundwater salinity. These tests indicate that a statistically significant increase in salinity occurred between the winters of 1971 and 1972 (the model calibration period). However, a comparison of the winter 1972 and winter 1982 data indicates that no significant net change in salinity has occurred during this 10-year period. An analysis of the few available historical data (1895, 1923, 1959–1961, and 1964) supports the hypothesis that groundwater salinity in this irrigated area has reached a long-term dynamic equilibrium in response to irrigation practices. The model predictions of long-term salinity increases were invalid probably because the calibration period occurred during a short-term annual trend of increasing salinity in the river (and hence in leaky irrigation canals and in applied irrigation water), which was not representative of the long-term trend.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Assessment of long-term salinity changes in an irrigated stream-aquifer system
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1029/WR021i011p01611
Volume 21
Issue 11
Year Published 1985
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 14 p.
First page 1611
Last page 1624
Country United States
State Colorado
Other Geospatial Arkansas River valley
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