Water Supplies & Water Quality Problems for Farming and Irrigation
Water quality concerns have often been neglected because good quality water supplies have been plentiful and readily available.
This situation is now changing in many areas. With poor Infrastructure and drainage damaging natural water supplies. To avoid problems when using these poor quality water supplies, there must be sound planning to ensure that the quality of water available is put to the best use.
Water Quality refers to the characteristics of water supplies that will influence its suitability for a specific use, i.e. how well the quality meets the needs of the user. Quality is defined by certain physical, chemical and biological characteristics. Even a personal preference such as taste is a simple evaluation of acceptability. For example, if two drinking waters of equally good quality are available, people may express a preference for one supply rather than the other; the better tasting water becomes the preferred supply.
In irrigation water evaluation, emphasis is placed on the chemical and physical characteristics of the water and only rarely are any other factors considered important.
Specific uses have different quality need’s and one water supply is considered more acceptable (of better quality) if it produces better results or cause’s fewer problems than an alternative water supply. For example, good quality river water which can be used successfully for irrigation may, because of its sediment load, be unacceptable for municipal use without treatment to remove the sediment.
The ideal situation is to have several supplies from which to make a selection, but normally only one supply is available. In this case, the quality of the available supply must be evaluated to see how it fits the intended use.
Water used for irrigation can vary greatly in quality depending upon type and quantity of dissolved salts. Salts are present in irrigation water in relatively small but significant amounts. They originate from dissolution or weathering of the rocks and soil, including dissolution of lime, gypsum and other slowly dissolved soil minerals. These salts are carried with the water to wherever it is used. In the case of irrigation, the salts are applied with the water and remain behind in the soil as water evaporates or is used by the crop
Irrigation canals frequently serve as sources for livestock drinking water but other sources, including poor quality supplies, are often used. Salinity requirements for irrigation are more restrictive than those for animals but highly saline water or water containing toxic elements may be hazardous to animal health and may even render the milk or meat unfit for consumption. In such cases, providing an alternate good quality water supply should minimize the problem.
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