Determining Impacts of Long Term Use of RO Concentrate on Atriplex Species, Soil characteristics and Microbial Habitats

Project ID: 1780
Principal Investigator: Scott OMeara
Research Topic: Desalination and Water Treatment
Funded Fiscal Years: 2017, 2018 and 2019
Keywords: None

Research Question

For several years, New Mexico and the southwest US have been under drought conditions. Due to these conditions, surface water is being depleted and saline groundwater is being used in agriculture. This water can be purified by using reverse osmosis (RO) leaving a high salinity concentrate. This concentrate is an environmental concern, which needs to be addressed. Atriplex species, when watered with concentrate, have been shown to uptake salts with the water.
Halophytes, such as Atriplex canescens and A. lentiformis, are native to the southwestern United States and have been identified as potential fodder for cattle. What would the environmental complications be if the concentrate was discharged on land that is being used only for grazing? Research questions are to: (1) identify solutions for the year-long safe reuse of RO concentrate,
(2) determine long term effects of concentrate irrigation on soil microbial diversity and habitats, (3) identify absorption and leaching patterns of the constituents of concentrate, and (4) design improved irrigation strategies to sustain food security by growing salt tolerant plants while sustaining soil and groundwater quality.
Our hypothesis is that concentrate can be used to irrigate halophytes year-long without degrading

Need and Benefit

While this project identifies with water usage needs in New Mexico, the results of the project will have value to the entire southwestern portion of the US. There are large areas of land in the southwest that are unused for agricultural purposes or otherwise. By determining what effects the concentrate will have on the soil properties and microbial environment, we can then determine if the concentrate can be used to grow fodder crops in regions in need of plant growth to protect from erosion. This will help ranchers who want to provide clean drinking water for their cattle but will need to dispose of RO concentrate, and all land applications.
The potential for using native halophytes and desalination concentrate in agriculture and land management processes could potentially increased.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Determining Impacts of Long-Term Use of Reverse Osmosis Concentrate as Drip Irrigation Water Source on Atriplex species, Soil Characteristics and Microbial Communities (final, PDF, 2.1MB)
By Scott Cerra, Dr. Manoj Skula, Scott O'Meara
Report completed on September 30, 2021

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

Determining Impacts of Long Term Use of RO Concentrate on Atriplex Species, Soil Characteristics and Microbial Habitats (final, PDF, 398KB)
By Scott O'Meara
R&D Bulletin completed on September 13, 2022

This bulletin summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20