Long term effects of treated wastewater irrigation on calcisol fertility: A case study of Sfax-Tunisia


The use of treated wastewater (TW) for irrigation is increasingly being considered as a technical solution to minimize soil degradation and to restore nutrient content of soils. Indeed, TW usually contain large amounts of nutrient elements. The objective of this study is to evaluate the impact of long-term irrigation by TW on soil fertility under real field conditions. In the vicinity of the city of Sfax, a semi-arid region, a calcisol field has been irrigated for more 15 years with organic sodic TW; soil was modeled at three different depths (0 - 30, 30 - 60 and 60 - 90 cm) and along soil pits in the TW irrigated zone and in a nearby non-irrigated zone (control). Several parameters have been measured: soils pH, CEC, exchangeable cations, nitrate and ammonia, total contents of nitrogen, phosphorus and other essential macro and micro nutrients, electrical conductivity, soil organic carbon and dissolved organic carbon. C/N ratio and SUVA were calculated for each soil layer. The calculation of the isovolumic mass balance on soil profile scale was used to measure macro and micro nutrients supply. The TW irrigation has led to important supply in organic carbon (+100%), phosphorus (+80%) and in most essential nutrients (N, Mn, Zn). Due to the high rate of irrigation and low CEC of the studied soil, the added nutrient cations and nitrate are removed with leaching waters compared to the non-irrigated control soil. Moreover, Sfax’s TW bring about important amounts of salts and Na. Therefore the beneficial addition of nutrients could quickly be inhibited by the excessive supply of salts and available nitrogen. Apart from future crops production risk, groundwater degradation quality and soil fertility will be endangered over the long term.

Share and Cite:

Belaid, N. , Neel, C. , Kallel, M. , Ayoub, T. , Ayadi, A. and Baudu, M. (2012) Long term effects of treated wastewater irrigation on calcisol fertility: A case study of Sfax-Tunisia. Agricultural Sciences, 3, 702-713. doi: 10.4236/as.2012.35085.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Bahri, A. (1987) Utilization of treated wastewater and sewage sludge in agriculture in Tunisia. Desalination 67, 233–244.
[2] Bahri, A. (2002) Water reuse in Tunisia: stakes and prospects. Actes de l’atelier du PCSI, Mont-pellier, France, pp 1-11.
[3] Haruvy, N. (1997) Agricultural reuse of wastewater: nation-wide cost-benefit analysis. Agriculture Ecosystem Environment 66, 113-119. doi: 10.1016/S0167-8809(97)00046-7
[4] Pescod, M.B. (1992) Wastewater treatment and use in agriculture. Bulletin FAO 47, Rome, Italy pp125.
[5] Yadav, B., Goyal, R.K., Sharma, S.K., Dubey, P.S., Minhas, R.K. (2002) Post-irrigation impact of domestic sewage effluent on composition of soils, crops and groundwater-A case study. Environment International 28, 481-486. doi:10.1016/S0160-4120(02)00070-3
[6] Coppola, A., Santini, A., Botti, P., Vacca, S., Comegna, V., Severino, G. (2004) Methodological approach for evaluating the response of soil hydrological behavior to irrigation with treated municipal wastewater. Journal of Hydrology 292, 114-134. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2003.12.028
[7] Herpin, U., Gloaguen, T.V., da Fonseca, A.F., Montes, C.R., Mendon?a, F.C., Piveli, R.P., Breulmann, G., Forti, M.C., Et Melfi, A.J. (2007) Chemical effects on the soil-plant system in a secondary treated wastewater irrigated coffee plantation- A pilot field study in Brazil. Agriculture Water Management 89, 105-115. doi:10.1016/j.agwat.2007.01.001
[8] Rattan, R.K., Datta, S.P., Chhonkar, P.K., Suribabu, K., Singh, A.K. (2005) Long-term impact of irrigation with sewage effluents on heavy metal content in soils, crops and groundwater—a case study. Agriculture Ecosystem and Environment 109, 310-322. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2005.02.025
[9] Abbas, S.T., Sarfraz, M., Mehdi, S.M., Hassan, G., Rehman, O.U. (2007) Trace elements accumulation in soil and rice plants irrigated with the contaminated water. Soil & Tillage Research 94, 503–509. doi:10.1016/j.still.2006.10.004
[10] Solis, C., Andrade, E., Mireles, A., Reyes-Solis, I.E., Garcia-Calderon, N., Lagunas-Solar, M.C., R.G. Pina Flocchini, C.U. (2005) Distribution of heavy metals in plants cultivated with wastewater irrigated soils during different periods of time. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B 241, 351-355. doi:10.1016/j.nimb.2005.07.040
[11] Rusan, M. J. M., Hinnawi, S., Rousan, L. (2007) Long term effect of wastewater irrigation of forage crops on soil and plant quality parameters. Desalination 215, 143–152. doi:10.1016/j.desal.2006.10.032
[12] Magesan, G.N., Williamson, J.C., Yeates, G.W., Loyd-Jones, A.R. (2000) Wastewater C:N ratio effects on soil hydraulic conductivity and potential mechanisms for recovery. Bioresource Technology 71, 21-27. doi:10.1016/S0960-8524(99)00054-1
[13] Ramirez-Fuentes, E., Lucho-Constantino, C., Escamilla-Silva, E., Den-dooven, L. (2002) Characteristics, and carbon and nitrogen dynamics in soil irrigated with wastewater for different lengths of time. Bioresource Techology 85, 179-187. doi:10.1016/S0960-8524(02)00035-4
[14] Bouri, S., Abida, H., Khanfir, H. (2008) Impacts of wastewater irrigation in arid and semi arid regions: case of Sidi Abid region, Tunisia. Environmental Geology 53, 1421-1432. doi:10.1007/s00254-007-0751-5
[15] Belaid, N., Neel, C., Kallel, M., Ayoub, T., Ayadi, A., Baudu, M. (2010) Effects of treated wastewater irrigation on salinity and sodicity of soils: A case study in Sfax (Tunisia). Journal of Water Science 23, (2) 133–145.
[16] FAO (1998) World Reference Base for Soil Resources, by ISSS–ISRIC–FAO. World Soil Resources Report No. 84. Rome, 88 p.
[17] AFNOR (1997) Qualité de l’eau, méthodes d’analyses 3. AFNOR (Eds) tome 4, pp 296.
[18] Orsini, L., Remy, J.C. (1976) Utilisation du chlorure de cobaltihexamine pour la détermination simultanée de la capacité d’échange et des bases échangeables des sols. Sciences du sol, bulletin de l’AFES 4, 269-279.
[19] Metson, A.J. (1956) Methods of chemical analysis for soil survey samples. New Zealand soil bureau 12.
[20] Baker, M.A., Valett, H.M., Dahm, C.N. (2000) Organic carbon supply and metabolism in a shallow groundwater ecosystem. Ecology 81, 3111-3148. doi:10.1890/0012-9658(2000)081[3133:OCSAMI]2.0.CO;2
[21] Klay, S., Charef, A., Ayed, L., Houman, B., Rezgui, F. (2010) Effect of irrigation with treated wastewater on geochemical properties (saltiness, C, N and heavy metals) of isohumic soils (Zaouit Sousse perimeter, Oriental Tunisia). Desalination 253, 180–187. doi:10.1016/j.desal.2009.10.019
[22] Keller, C., Védy, J.-C. (1994) Distribution of copper and cadmium fractions in two forest soils. J. Environ. Qual. 23, 987–999. doi:10.2134/jeq1994.00472425002300050020x
[23] Kim, D.Y., Burger, J.A. (1997) Nitrogen transformations and soil processes in a wastewater-irrigated, mature Appalachian hardwood forest. Forest Ecology and Management 90, 1-11. doi:10.1016/S0378-1127(96)03889-3
[24] Néel C., Soubrand-Colin M., Piquet-Pissaloux A., Bril H. (2007) Mobility and availability of Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn and Pb in a basaltic grassland: comparison of selective extractions with quantitative approaches at different scales. Applied Geochemistry (22), Issue 4, 724-735.
[25] Chow, A.T., Tanji, K.K., Gao, S. (2003) Production of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and trihalomethane (THM) precursor from peat soils. Water Research 37, 4475-4485. doi:10.1016/S0043-1354(03)00437-8
[26] Shuang, X., Qing Liang, Z., Liang Liang, W., Lina, W., Zhi Gang, L. (2007) Fate of secondary effluent dissolved organic matter during soil-aquifer treatment. Chinese Science Bulletin 52, 2496-2505. doi:10.1007/s11434-007-0339-1
[27] Traina, S.J., Novak, J., Smeck, N.E (1990) An ultraviolet absorbance method of estimating the percent aromatic carbon content of humic acids. Journal of Environmental Quality 19, 151–153. doi:10.2134/jeq1990.00472425001900010023x
[28] Hassouna, M., Theraulaz, F., Lafolie, F., Massiani, C. (2005) Characterisation and quantitative estimation of the hydrophobic, transphilic and hydrophilic fractions of DOC in soil using direct UV spectroscopy. Geophysical Research Abstracts 7, 3p.
[29] Kalbitz, K., Schmerwitz, J., Schwesig, D., Matzner, E. (2003) Biodegradation of soil-derived dissolved organic matter as related to its properties. Geoderma 113, 273-291. doi:10.1016/S0016-7061(02)00365-8
[30] Van Miegroet, H., Boettinger, J.L., Baker, M.A., Nielsen, J., Evans, D., Stum, A. (2005) Soil carbon distribution and quality in a montane rangeland-forest mosaic in northern Utah. Forest Ecology Management 220, 284-299. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2005.08.017
[31] Korshin, G.V., Li, C.W, Benjamin, M.M. (1997) Monitoring the properties of natural organic matter through UV spectroscopy: a consistent theory. Water Research 31, 1787-1795. doi:10.1016/S0043-1354(97)00006-7
[32] Romkens Paul, F.A.M., Dolfing, J. (1998) Effect of Ca on the solubility and molecular size distribution of DOC and Cu binding in soil solution samples. Environmental Science and Technology 32, 363-369. doi:10.1021/es970437f
[33] Rietz, D.N., Haynes, R.J. (2003) Effects of irrigation-induced salinity and sodicity on soil microbial activity. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 35, 845-854. doi:10.1016/S0038-0717(03)00125-1
[34] Jalali, M, Merikhpour, H, Kaledhonkar, MJ, Van Der Zee, S E.A.T.M (2008) Effects of wastewater irrigation on soil sodicity and nutrient leaching in calcareous soils. Agricultural Water Management 95, 143–153. doi:10.1016/j.agwat.2007.09.010

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.