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Irrigation management strategies for improved salinity and sodicity control

Abstract : An integrated approach is developed to assess a priori the effects of irrigation management interventions on soil salinity, sodicity and transpiration. The approach is tested for a 75,000 ha irrigation system in Pakistan, where canal and groundwater are used conjunctively. The main hypothesis is that by reallocating good quality canal water, the use of poor quality groundwater can be restricted, thus combating salinity and sodicity and mitigating their effects on crops. The study has three components. Firstly, interventions in canal water deliveries to tertiary units are analyzed using an unsteady state hydraulic model, based on the St. Venant equations, and linked with a regulation module, which captures the operational decisions of the irrigation agency. By changing the operational rules at the main canal, and by redimensioning the outlets in secondary canals, the water can be distributed equitably to tertiary units or delivered to those units that require it for salinity control. Secondly, the impact of irrigation on salinity, sodicity and transpiration is assessed for farmers' fields, using a combined soil water flow and solute transport model, based on Richard's equation and the convection-dispersion equation, and a regression equation, based on the irrigation quality and soil texture. A curvilinear relationship with a decreasing tangent was found between the irrigation quantity and soil salinity. Increases in the EC of the irrigation water result in a parallel curve with higher salinity levels. Adapting the irrigation quantity and quality to the existing soil types and depth to groundwater table can, therefore, reduce salinity and sodicity, thus avoiding soil degradation, which already occurs at an ESP of 4%. Thirdly, both components are combined with a parallel, socio-economic study, where farmers' decisions related to the crop portfolio and acquisition/application of water, were captured in Linear Programming models. The individual models of both studies are interfaced to develop a tool, capable of quantifying the effect of irrigation management interventions. For a secondary canal serving 14,000 ha, it is shown that the area threatened by sodicity is reduced by 40% by reallocating canal water, without affecting the agricultural production. The results of the developed tool should not be taken as accurate predictions, as there are likely to be unforeseen events due to the complexity of irrigation systems. Instead, the approach should be evaluated for its effectiveness in supporting actors' decisions in irrigation system management, by enhancing their understanding of the effects of interventions on salinity, sodicity and agricultural production. The application of the approach, in two case studies, shows that it allows the investigation of a wide range of policy and management interventions, and captures adequately the complexity of an irrigation system, thus providing indications about its transferability. However, the tools should be applied as part of an integrated concept, which includes phases of diagnosis, identification of relevant processes and parameters, and discussions with actors.
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Marcel Kuper. Irrigation management strategies for improved salinity and sodicity control. Earth Sciences. Wageningen University and Research Centre, 1997. English. ⟨tel-00422363⟩

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