Saline waste waters from industrial and water treatment processes are an under-utilized resource in desert urban environments. Management practices to safely use these water sources are still in development. We used a deeprooted native halophyte, Atriplex lentiformis (quailbush), to absorb mildly saline effluent (1800 mg l-1 total dissolved solids, mainly sodium sulfate) from a water treatment plant in the desert community of Twentynine Palms, California. We developed a deficit irrigation strategy to avoid discharging water past the root zone to the aquifer. The plants were irrigated at about one-third the rate of reference evapotranspiration (ETo) calculated from meteorological data over five years and soil moisture levels were monitored to a soil depth of 4.7 m at monthly intervals with a neutron hydroprobe. The deficit irrigation schedule maintained the soil below field capacity throughout the study. Water was presented on a more or less constant schedule, so that the application rates were less than ETo in summer and equal to or slightly greater than ETo in winter, but the plants were able to consume water stored in the profile in winter to support summer ET. Sodium salts gradually increased in the soil profile over the study but sulfate levels remained low, due to formation of gypsum in the calcic soil. The high salt tolerance, deep roots, and drought tolerance of desert halophytes such as A. lentiformis lend these plants to use as deficit-irrigated landscape plants for disposal of effluents in urban setting when protection of the aquifer is important. ?? 2008 Elsevier B.V.
Additional publication details
Deficit irrigation of a landscape halophyte for reuse of saline waste water in a desert city