Return Flow and Soil Salts in Two Drainage Basins

by Martin Oosterveld, Research Scientist; Agriculture Canada Research Station, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada,
John A. Toogood, Prof.; Dept. of Soil Sci., Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada,
Ronald W. McMullin, Irrigation Specialist; Alberta Agriculture, Vauxhall, Alberta, Canada,

Serial Information: Journal of the Irrigation and Drainage Division, 1978, Vol. 104, Issue 4, Pg. 361-371

Document Type: Journal Paper


Irrigation return flow in both a predominantly sprinkler-irrigated and a flood- irrigated drainage basin of southern Alberta was studied in 1975 and 1976. The total return flow consisted of about 3% to 5% ground-water flow with the remainder coming from canal and pump reservoir spillage (up to 96% in the sprinkler-irrigated basin). Because of dilution by spillage and good quality runoff, the salt concentration of return flow water was close to that of the supply water. The soil salt content was decreased during the study despite a greater salt import in irrigation water than was removed in surface drains. Total salt movement by natural drainage out of the top 240 cm of soil was 11.3 tons/ha on sprinkler irrigation and 13.7 tons/ha on flood irrigation during the study. Salt import in canal water exceeded outflow in drainwater by 2.7 tons/ha/yr on sprinkler irrigation and 1.9 tons/ha/yr on flood irrigation.

Subject Headings: Salt water | Drainage basins | Floods | Groundwater flow | Water quality | Return flow | Salts | Canals | Alberta | Canada

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