Irrigation Science

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 177–187 | Cite as

Sustainability of conjunctive water use for salinity control in irrigation areas: theory and application to the Shepparton region, Australia

  • J. Bernard Prendergast
  • Calvin W. Rose
  • William L. Hogarth


The long term sustainability of conjunctive water use for controlling irrigation salinity is affected by increase in groundwater salinity over time. This paper uses mass conservation of salt and water to assess groundwater degradation over long time scales. Management options which affect this rate of degradation are also examined. The groundwater model developed is illustrated using data from the Shepparton Irrigation Region in the Murray Basin, Australia. The model predicts rapid groundwater deterioration when conjunctive use is conducted over only a fraction of the area of influence of a groundwater pump. Where the pumped aquifer is underlain by deeper groundwaters, the rate of groundwater degradation is also affected by leakage into or out of the conjunctive use system. Surface redistribution of groundwater from pumps installed in zones of regional groundwater discharge to areas recharging the regional groundwaters, reduces excessive degradation in the zones of discharge. With optimal surface distribution of groundwater, the rate of degradation is low. The rate of groundwater degradation also depends on salt inputs from irrigation water and rainfall, and the average depth from the soil surface to the base of the aquifer. The rate of degradation resulting from applied salts in surface water and rainfall is typically about 0.01 dSm-1 per year for shallow aquifers in the Shepparton region, but the rate is lower where deeper aquifers are pumped. Partial irrigation also reduces the rate of degradation because of the reduced rate of salt inputs. Where poorer quality groundwater lies within the area of influence of the groundwater pump, a greater rate of deterioration in the quality of pumped groundwater can be expected from groundwater mixing. In some irrigation regions limited export of groundwater through surface water conveyance structures to a river is possible, so that a regional surface salt balance could be maintained. However, salt exports made equal to the rate of surface imports into the irrigated area will only significantly impact groundwater salinity in the very long term, or where only shallow aquifers can be pumped. In addition, this export can be costly for downstream water users, or if construction of additional conveyance infrastructure is extensive; export can have a detrimental impact on riverine ecosystems. Other management options such as the depth of pump installation and the spatial distribution of irrigation water and pumped groundwater, which affect the redistribution of salts within the groundwater system, have the potential to have a much greater impact on local groundwater salinity.


Shallow Aquifer Groundwater Salinity Regional Groundwater Limited Export Irrigation Region 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Bernard Prendergast
    • 1
  • Calvin W. Rose
    • 2
  • William L. Hogarth
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Sustainable Irrigated AgricultureTaturaAustralia
  2. 2.Griffith UniversityNathanAustralia

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