Faculté des sciences

Direct simulation of solute recycling in irrigated areas

Milnes, Ellen ; Perrochet, Pierre

In: Advances in Water Resources, 2006, vol. 29, no. 8, p. 1140-1154

Solute recycling from irrigation can be described as the process that occurs when the salt load that is extracted from irrigation wells and distributed on the fields is returned to the groundwater below irrigated surfaces by deep percolation. Unless the salt load leaves the system by means of drains or surface runoff, transfer to the groundwater will take place, sooner or later. This can lead to... More

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    Summary
    Solute recycling from irrigation can be described as the process that occurs when the salt load that is extracted from irrigation wells and distributed on the fields is returned to the groundwater below irrigated surfaces by deep percolation. Unless the salt load leaves the system by means of drains or surface runoff, transfer to the groundwater will take place, sooner or later. This can lead to solute accumulation and thus to groundwater degradation, particularly in areas where extraction rates exceed infiltration rates (semi-arid and arid regions). Thus, considerable errors can occur in a predictive solute mass budget if the recycling process is not accounted for in the calculation. A method is proposed which allows direct simulation of solute recycling. The transient solute response at an extraction well is shown to be a superposition of solute mass flux contributions from n recycling cycles and is described as a function of the travel time distribution between a recycling point and a well. This leads to an expression for a transient ‘recycling source’ term in the advection–dispersion equation, which generates the effect of solute recycling. At long times, the ‘recycling source’ is a function of the local capture probability of the irrigation well and the solute mass flux captured by the well from the boundaries. The predicted concentration distribution at steady state reflects the maximum spatial concentration distribution in response to solute recycling and can thus be considered as the solute recycling potential or vulnerability of the entire domain for a given hydraulic setting and exploitation scheme. Simulation of the solute recycling potential is computationally undemanding and can therefore, for instance, be used for optimisation purposes. Also, the proposed method allows transient simulation of solute recycling with any standard flow and transport code.