Using Wastewater in Irrigation: The Effects on Infiltration Process in a Clayey Soil

Albalasmeh, Ammar A. and Gharaibeh, Mamoun A. and Alghzawi, Ma’in Z. and Morbidelli, Renato and Saltalippi, Carla and Ghezzehei, Teamrat A. and Flammini, Alessia.

Water, vol. 12(4]), pp. 968 , 2020.


Soil water infiltration is a critical process in the soil water cycle and agricultural practices, especially when wastewater is used for irrigation. Although research has been conducted to evaluate the changes in the physical and chemical characteristics of soils irrigated by treated wastewater, a quantitative analysis of the effects produced on the infiltration process is still lacking. The objective of this study is to address this issue. Field experiments previously conducted on three adjacent field plots characterized by the same clayey soil but subjected to three different irrigation treatments have been used. The three irrigation conditions were: non-irrigated (natural conditions) plot, irrigated plot with treated wastewater for two years, and irrigated plot with treated wastewater for five years. Infiltration measurements performed by the Hood infiltrometer have been used to estimate soil hydraulic properties useful to calibrate a simplified infiltration model widely used under ponding conditions, that were existing during the irrigation stage. Our simulations highlight the relevant effect of wastewater usage as an irrigation source in reducing cumulative infiltration and increasing overland flow as a result of modified hydraulic properties of soils characterized by a lower capacity of water drainage. These outcomes can provide important insights for the optimization of irrigation techniques in arid areas where the use of wastewater is often required due to the chronic shortage of freshwater.