Variations in water balance and recharge potential at three western desert sites

Soil Science Society of America Journal
By: , and 

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Abstract

Radioactive and hazardous waste landfills exist at numerous desert locations in the USA. At these locations, annual precipitation is low and soils are generally dry, yet little is known about recharge of water and transport of contaminants to the water table. Recent water balance measurements made at three desert locations, Las Cruces, NM, Beatty, NV, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Hanford Site in the state of Washington, provide information on recharge potential under three distinctly different climate and soil conditions. All three sites show water storage increases with time when soils are coarse textured and plants are removed from the surface, the rate of increase being influenced by climatic variables such as precipitation, radiation, temperature, and wind. Lysimeter data from Hanford and Las Cruces indicate that deep drainage (recharge) from bare, sandy soils can range from 10 to >50% of the annual precipitation. At Hanford, when desert plants are present on sandy or gravelly surface soils, deep drainage is reduced but not eliminated. When surface soils are silt loams, deep drainage is eliminated whether plants are present or not. At Las Cruces and Beatty, the presence of plants eliminated deep drainage at the measurement sites. Differences in water balance between sites are attributed to precipitation quantity and distribution and to soil and vegetation types. The implication for waste management at desert locations is that surface soil properties and plant characteristics must be considered in waste site design in order to minimize recharge potential.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Variations in water balance and recharge potential at three western desert sites
Series title Soil Science Society of America Journal
DOI 10.2136/sssaj1994.03615995005800010009x
Volume 58
Issue 1
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Soil Science Society of America
Contributing office(s) Nevada Water Science Center, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 10 p.
First page 63
Last page 72