Soil water repellency induced by long-term irrigation with treated sewage effluent

R. Wallach*, O. Ben-Arie, E. R. Graber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


This study describes soil water repellency developed under prolonged irrigation with treated sewage effluent in a semiarid environment Soil surface layer (0-5 cm) and soil profile (0-50 cm) transects were sampled at a high resolution at the close of the irrigation season and rainy winter season. Samples from 0- to 5-cm transects were sub-divided into 1-cm slices to obtain fine scale resolution of repelleracy and organic matter distribution. Extreme to severe soil water repellency in the 0- to 5-cm soil surface layer persisted throughout the 2-yr study period in the effluent-irrigated Shamouti orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck cv. Shamouti] orchard plot. Nearby Shamouti orange plots irrigated with tap water were either nonrepellent or only somewhat repellent. Repeilency was very variable spatially and with depth, appearing in vertically oriented "repellency tongues." Temporal and spatial variability in repellency in the uppermost 5-cm soil surface layer was not related to seasonality, soil moisture content, or soil organic matter content. Nonunifoon distribution of soil moisture and fingered flow were observed in the soil profile after both seasons, demonstrating that the repellent layer had a persistent effect on water flow in the soil profile. A lack of correlation between bulk density and volumetric water content in the soil profile demonstrates that the observed non-uniform spatial distribution of moisture results from preferential flow and not heterogeneity in soil properties. Soil water repellency can adversely affect agricultural production, cause contamination of underlying ground water resources, and result in excessive runoff and soil erosion.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1910-1920
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2005


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