Water Reuse and Agriculture: Impacts on Land and Plants
In the coming years water reuse will become a major issue in the western United States as current drought
conditions continue and the population continues to grow. Understanding the impacts of water reuse on
agriculture is important to Reclamation because we are the major movers and supplier of water in the west. One
out of five farmers receives irrigation water from Reclamation in the west. Understanding the risks associated with
water reuse and agriculture is important because the food supply is a precious commodity.
One aspect of water reuse is its impacts on agriculture. Water reuse involves the recycling of water that has been
used by people from a wide range of purposes so that it can be used either as a non-potable or potable water
source. The degree of treatment that the water undergoes depends on the end use. The requirements for the
amount of treatment that reused water for agricultural needs vary from state to state. This scoping project will
primarily be a literature review that will be used to determine areas where there is a need for additional research
in the field of water reuse as it relates to agriculture. If a significant hole in the current research is found a propc
study will be proposed for 2017. There is a need to understand the risks of using reused water on crops and the
long term impact on soil health. Some of the questions that this review will address are: Does reused water impact
the growth of certain crops? How do different soil types respond to reused water? What types of contaminates
(pathogens and chemicals) are being added to the soil through water reuse? Do any of these contaminants
bioaccumulate in or on the surface of plants that might be harmful to human health?
Need and Benefit
As climate change continues to affect the western United States, reused water will become an even more
important source of water for farmers due to the limited availability of water. Making the decision to use reused
water on crops and convincing consumers that the food is safe to eat presents a challenge to water managers.
Understanding the impacts of reused water on soil health and plants is important because it directly impacts the
food supply. By understanding the interactions between reused water, soils, and plants we can hopefully help to
change the public's opinion of reused water. If there are long term effects to soil and plants, by knowing what
contaminates cause the most issues, water treatment facilities can make adjustments to remove the contaminates
of concern. Because of climate and population changes in the western United States water availability will become
a larger issue that both water managers and the public must address. There is always going to be contaminates
present in water, managing and understanding the consequences of the presence of contaminants is important if
Reclamation is going to continue to be the nation's largest wholesale supplier of water.
Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.
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.
Water Reuse and Agriculture: Impacts on Land and Plants (final, PDF, 643KB)
By Jacque Keele
Publication completed on September 30, 2016