Managing salinity for sustainability of irrigation in areas with shallow saline ground water

J.E. Ayars, R.W.O. Soppe, E.W. Christen

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperAcademic


Irrigation will be required to meet the demands of the world population for food. Water will also be needed to meet the municipal, industrial, and environmental demands of the growing population. As a result irrigation water supplies will be reduced and irrigators will probably be forced into using degraded water as part of the supply and the possibility for increased salinity in the soil profile will occur. Drainage will be required to assist in the management of the water needed for leaching to prevent soil salinisation. Drainage water containing salt and other contaminants creates a water quality problem for the water body receiving the drainage water. The paper presents the results of three cases studies that address the issue of disposal of saline drainage water through reuse for supplemental irrigation, water table control, and changing the design criteria for subsurface drainage as methods to reduce the drainage volume. The first study demonstrated that over 50% of the crop water requirement can be met with saline drainage water and that salinity in the soil profile can be managed to not adversely affect yields. This is not the case if the drainage water contains high levels of boron. The second study demonstrated that the water table can effectively be manipulated if the drainage system is properly installed. The third study showed the reduction in salt load as a result of implementing drainage control on deep drains or installing shallow drains. The results from these studies demonstrate that irrigated agriculture is sustainable in arid and semi-arid areas through improved management of the subsurface drainage system.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • drainage
  • subsurface drainage
  • soil chemistry
  • salinity
  • water table
  • california

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