Chloride levels increase after 13 years of recycled water use in the Salinas Valley
The use of recycled water for agriculture is a long-term water strategy in California. A study in the 1980s in Monterey County showed recycled water increased soil salinity but not to a level unacceptable for agriculture. Most growers in the northern Salinas Valley have been using it since 1998, and yet providers of the water and many growers are concerned that the sustained use of recycled water might cause deterioration of the soil. An ongoing study, initiated in 2000, compares the changes in soil salinity between a field receiving only well water and eight fields that receive recycled water. In 13 years of data, the average soil salinity parameters at each site were highly correlated with the average water quality values of the recycled water. Soil salinity did increase, though not deleteriously. Of most concern was the accumulation of chloride at four of the sites, to levels above the critical threshold values for chloride-sensitive crops.