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Assessment Of Solute Fluxes Beneath An Orchard Irrigated With Treated Sewage Water: A Numerical Study

D. Russo, A. Laufer, Roi H. Shapira, D. Kurtzman
Published 2013 · Geology

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[1] Detailed numerical simulations were used to analyze water flow and transport of nitrate, chloride, and a tracer solute in a 3-D, spatially heterogeneous, variably saturated soil, originating from a citrus orchard irrigated with treated sewage water (TSW) considering realistic features of the soil-water-plant-atmosphere system. Results of this study suggest that under long-term irrigation with TSW, because of nitrate uptake by the tree roots and nitrogen transformations, the vadose zone may provide more capacity for the attenuation of the nitrate load in the groundwater than for the chloride load in the groundwater. Results of the 3-D simulations were used to assess their counterparts based on a simplified, deterministic, 1-D vertical simulation and on limited soil monitoring. Results of the analyses suggest that the information that may be gained from a single sampling point (located close to the area active in water uptake by the tree roots) or from the results of the 1-D simulation is insufficient for a quantitative description of the response of the complicated, 3-D flow system. Both might considerably underestimate the movement and spreading of a pulse of a tracer solute and also the groundwater contamination hazard posed by nitrate and particularly by chloride moving through the vadose zone. This stems mainly from the rain that drove water through the flow system away from the rooted area and could not be represented by the 1-D model or by the single sampling point. It was shown, however, that an additional sampling point, located outside the area active in water uptake, may substantially improve the quantitative description of the response of the complicated, 3-D flow system.
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