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The Impacts of Recycled Water on Soil Properties in Vineyards in the Great Western Region

Karen Hermon1, Graeme Allinson1, Frank Stagnitti1, Roger A. Armstrong2 and Peta Maher1

1School of Ecology and Environment, Deakin University, Warrnambool, Vic 3280, Australia. Email:
Department of Primary Industries, Private Bag 260, Horsham, Victoria 3401, Australia.


As pressure on the world’s limited fresh water resources continues to increase, the recycling of water for purposes such as agricultural irrigation is becoming increasingly favourable. Such practices allow for expansion of production in situations where water resources are already committed. Additionally, land disposal of wastewaters has become a favourable option for many water authorities in light of increasingly stringent standards applied to wastewater disposal to natural waters.

Despite the many benefits, however, there are potential impacts when using recycled water. These include the development of saline and/or sodic soils, soil structural decline, and the contamination of groundwater resources by salts, nutrients, and other constituents of the recycled water.

This research is based in the Great Western region, Victoria, where a scheme was developed to deliver treated municipal effluent from a nearby township to vineyards in the Great Western region. The soils of the region are predominantly acid duplex, marginally sodic, possessing some drainage and physical limitations. This research is focused on determining the potential for the development of saline and/or sodic conditions in the subsoils, and the potential for soil structural degradation in the long-term. The fate of other constituents of the recycled water, including nutrients is also being monitored. The study is comparing soil properties under recycled water irrigation with soils irrigated with fresh water, and non-irrigated pasture soils adjacent to vines. The results of preliminary observations will be presented, with particular emphasis on the electrical conductivity, exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP), and dispersive characteristics of soils under the different irrigation regimes.

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