, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 279-295

Evaporation ponds as a drainwater disposal management option

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Constructed evaporation ponds are being utilized for disposalof saline subsurface drainage waters in San Joaquin Valley,California. These terminal evaporation ponds are located inhydrologically closed basins and/or regions with no surfacedrainage out of the valley. The saline drainwaters disposedinto the ponds are sodium-sulfate or sodium-sulfate-chloridetype waters and upon desiccation produces mirabilite andhalite. The drainwaters contain excessive levels of traceelements from geochemical origins. The trace element of mostconcern, is selenium because it bioaccumulates in the aquaticfood chain and causes death and deformity of waterbirdsattracted to the pond environment. At the present, the onlyeconomic drainwater disposal option in the southern. portionof the valley is evaporation ponds. The operation of theseponds is heavily regulated by waste discharge requirements toreduce and mitigate wildlife impacts. A case study onevaporation ponds and bird usage from a drainage districtillustrates the extensive monitoring and mitigation required.The prognosis is evaporation basins will be needed for theforeseeable future unless breakthroughs occur in economic andeffective drainwater treatment and drainwater reuseoptions.