Saline Aquifer

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C. Schaan, WRM, Graduate Student, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
L. Clark, Graduate Student, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Dale Devitt, Soil and Water Scientist, University of Nevada
 Robert L. Morris, Cooperative Extension , University of Nevada
Las Vegas Valley

    Continued population growth in the Las Vegas valley, associated with fixed water resources, has compelled water managers, policy makers and scientists alike, to look at all possible ways of addressing southern Nevada's water supply-demandClick for Larger Image! dilemma. Future growth and development in the valley (and even the quality of life for residents) will be impacted to a great extent by how well existing water resources are managed. As such, all water resources whether of good or poor quality should be given consideration for incorporation into any water-use master plan that is designed for the future. Careful thought should now be given to waste-water utilization as a means of substituting and freeing up good quality water for higher priority uses. Currently, a sizable fraction of water delivered by the Las Vegas Valley Water District is used for landscape irrigation purposes.

    Many poorer quality waters could be utilized as alternative irrigation sources, if proper irrigation management is practiced. One potential water resource that has so far gone untapped is the shallow saline aquifer that exists below much of theClick for Larger Image! eastern part of the valley. Estimates place the volume of this shallow system at 100,000 acre feet or more. Preliminary research to investigate the potential use of this water as an alternative irrigation source was conducted by our research team on a small scale basis (18: 44' x 6' plots). Findings clearly indicated that this water could be used as an irrigation supplement but not as a sole source for irrigating turfgrass. Under optimum management conditions, no loss in color, quality or turfgrass stand vigor was observed when either bermudagrass or tall fescue was irrigated with blended aquifer water possessing an electrical conductivity of 6.0 dS/m over a two year period (approximately 6 times the salt load of the Colorado River), which represented a 65% saline aquifer substitution rate. Such results have encouraged us to transfer our findings to a larger scale on a more applied level (real world!).

    UNLV FootBall Field Research SiteWe are investigating the use of a shallow saline aquifer as anUNLV Football Field Research Site alternative irrigation source for turfgrass. Two turfgrass areas (UNLV Football Field and Valley High School Soccer Field) have been selected for research. Shallow wells, storage reservoirs and irrigation system modifications have already taken place. Each site has been instrumented with tensiometers, salinity UNLV Saline Water TankUNLV Saline Tanksensors and a weather station. Saline irrigation substitution began in 1997. The objectives of the research are to:

1)    Determine the percent substitution of shallow aquifer water that could occur during summer months without objectionable results as measured by scientists and local turfgrass managers.
2)    Monitor the water and salt balances, soil physical properties and the associated turfgrass response at each site to assess long-term impacts of using such water.
3)    Determine the economic impact of using such water at the user level but also at the Water District level (peak demand delivery system costs).
4)    Determine any difficulties that might exist in the transfer of technology at the field scale level and determine ways of overcoming such difficulties.
5)    Summarize research results into an educational program to implement such technology.


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