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Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment Vol.9 (1): 648-652. 2011


Effects of Lower Seyhan Plain irrigation on groundwater depth and salinity

Harun Kaman 1*, Mahmut etn 2 and Cevat Kirda 2
1 2

Department of Agricultural Structures and Irrigation, Faculty of Agriculture, Akdeniz University, 07058 Antalya, Turkey. Department of Agricultural Structures and Irrigation, Faculty of Agriculture, Cukurova University, 01330 Adana, Turkey. *e-mail: hkaman@akdeniz.edu.tr

Received 6 November 2010, accepted 8 January 2011.

This work was carried out in Akarsu Irrigation District (AID) of 9495 hectares, having irrigation and drainage networks for about 50 years in Lower Seyhan Plain (LSP). The farmers in the district use the traditional surface irrigation systems of low irrigation efficiency. Drainage and groundwater salinity problems developed due to mismanaged irrigation systems, low irrigation efficiency, heavy soil texture, inadequate drainage systems and other likely problems which all cause reduced agricultural production. The undertaken work investigated interrelations between the existing irrigation practice with groundwater depths and salinity, using groundwater observation wells. With additionally installed drainage observation wells, a total of 107 wells were under survey in 2006. The groundwater depths were measured in May, July and September, and samples were collected concurrently for measuring electrical conductivity (EC, dS m-1). The groundwater depths in May showed that there was no drainage problem in the area. However, drainage problem (groundwater depth < 1 m) was evident during high irrigation season in July. Mean groundwater salinity in May, July and September was respectively 4.310.1, 2.84.3 and 3.45.0 dS m-1. The area with high threshold groundwater salinity (EC > 5 dS m-1) in May, July and September was respectively 24%, 14% and 21% of the total area. Field irrigation efficiency and irrigation water use efficiency, assessed during the mentioned periods, were respectively 20% and 29%. The high groundwater salinity observed during the peak irrigation season in July was attributed to wide spread practice of excess irrigation resulting in both low field irrigation efficiency and low irrigation water use efficiency. Improvement of existing irrigation management is required for solving the mentioned problems observed in the study area. Key words: Groundwater observation, drainage, salinity map, areal average, irrigation efficiency.

Introduction Irrigation is essential to ensure plant growth and development in areas with scant and irregular rainfall regime during summer months. In such areas, irrigation is the only practice which could guarantee high yields. The irrigation practice also has some problems as noted in all other agricultural production and areas of management. The mentioned issues are mainly related to problems in soil-plant-water relations. It is a commonly noted problem that growers do not have good knowledge and experience on irrigation management to decide what irrigation method would fit best for their crops and how much irrigation water they should apply for obtaining good crop. The flood-irrigation with very low irrigation efficiency is unfortunately wide spread among the growers. The mentioned problems may endanger sustainability of high crop yields under irrigated agriculture due to likely risks of developing soil salinity and alkalinity. Excess irrigation, for example, may cause rising of groundwater and thus development of soil salinity 1. Development of soil salinity within the plant root zone is closely related to rights and wrongs of irrigation methods used 2. Any wrong doings in irrigation management may cause development of soil salinity and alkalinity even if irrigation water quality may have no problem. Additionally, characteristics of natural topography, drainage outlet, climate, geological features, main soil material and distance from costal areas may all influence development of soil salinity 3.

Soil salinity is an important constraint to sustainability of irrigated agriculture and high crop yields. Good agricultural areas become infertile and are left barren if the salinity could not be controlled. It is well known and should be noted that the salt affected agricultural areas are continuously increasing. Of world-wide agricultural areas, 37% is sodium-affected (i.e. alkaline soils), 23% salt-affected soils, and in only 40% good agricultural production exists. The salinity threat in agriculture exists in more than 100 countries 4. Nearly 4x104 hectares of agricultural land is left barren annually because of soil salinity 5. Salt-affected agricultural areas have reached nearly 20% of presently irrigated lands in our country 6. Availability of water resources is not sufficient, and quality is also important for use in agriculture 1, 7. Demand for good-quality water has increased in recent years owing to population increase and industrial development. Therefore, scarcity of water that we are to face has now been in sight. In view of climate change and its consequence, it is utmost important and essential to define and agree upon for development of the best strategies for effective use of available water resources and for preventing their wasteful usage 8. Irrigated agriculture in our country requires the highest allocation of available water resources 9-11. However, it should be noted that low irrigation efficiency observed in our irrigation schemes is a problem which needs to be solved. Efficient and effective use of water in irrigated agriculture will ensure significant savings in water use 7, 12.
Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment, Vol.9 (1), January 2011


Groundwater depth and soil salinity require close monitoring for sustaining soil fertility in irrigated agriculture. The best irrigation management practice can be formulated based on the results of continuous monitoring of groundwater depth and soil salinity which have significant effect on crop production 8. If rise of groundwater depth occurs during peak irrigation season, it is very likely that irrigation efficiency must be very low under the existing irrigation practice with other major management deficiencies 13, 14. It is a common practice to monitor groundwater depths and salinity with observation wells opened in the irrigated areas. This work was carried out in Akarsu Irrigation Distict (AID) at Lower Seyhan Plain (LSP), Adana, Turkey. Growers of the area generally use flood irrigation method with low irrigation efficiency. Low irrigation efficiency of commonly used flood irrigation, heavy soil texture existing in the area, lack of adequate field drainage system and many other drawbacks of irrigation management system caused rising of groundwater and consequently salinity. The mentioned problems therefore adversely affected crop yields in the area. This study aims at close monitoring of groundwater depth and sanity changes as influenced by the existing irrigation practice. The monitoring was carried out using a network of observation wells over one complete hydrological year from 1 October 2005 until 30 September 2006.

Marmara Sea
Aegean Sea

Black Sea ANKARA

Ber dan rive r

r ive nr ha ey S er riv an yh Ce

2 km Mediterranean

Figure 1. Geographical location of the study areas in Turkey.

Materials and Methods This work was implemented in Akarsu Irrigation District (AID) of 9495 ha within the area of Lower Seyhan Plain (LSP) which has been under irrigation for 50 years. Total area of LSP is 213,200 ha, out of which only 174,088 ha is suitable for irrigated agriculture 1, 9, 11. The AID is located within the Southern latitudes of 3657'32"-36 50' 43" and Eastern longitudes of 3540'22"-3528'42" in South-eastern direction of the city Adana, close to Karata County (Fig. 1). The management of the irrigation schemes in this area was transferred to the ownership of irrigation districts by State Hydraulic Works in 1994. The river Seyhan with annual flow rate of 6.3 km3 is the major source of irrigation water of good quality (EC<0.35 dS m-1) present in the area. The farmers of the area generally use surface irrigation methods of low irrigation efficiency. The soil series Arkl (30%), ncirli (27%) and Yenice (14%) cover 71% of all the different series of Akarsu Irrigation District 15. The area has a typical Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers and cool and wet winters 16. Long-term (about 40 years) average temperature is 18.7C, with maximum of 25.2C and minimum of 13.1C. The high temperatures are generally observed in June, July, August and September; whereas December, January, February and March have low temperatures 16. The field survey at the beginning of study showed that the project area was equipped with groundwater observation wells. However, 39 out of 99 wells existing in the area were out of order and not working properly. Thus, damaged and unusable old wells were replaced with the new ones. Total of 107 observation wells exist so far to be used for observation of Figure 2. Network of groundwater observation wells in Akarsu Irrigation District.
Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment, Vol.9 (1), January 2011

groundwater fluctuations and collection of groundwater samples for salinity analysis (Fig. 2). Considering the information given in Magellan Explorist 600 Reference Manual 17; GPS, the coordinates of the groundwater observation wells were determined in place as UTM, based on Datum = ED50. Groundwater depths and salinity (dS m-1) surveys, carried out in May, July and September in 2006, following the procedures described in other studies 13, 14, were the basic research data used in this work. Groundwater depths and the data of laboratory analysis were investigated utilizing geographical information system (GIS). The coordinates were determined using the parameters of UTM projection and ED50 datum 17 directly in the field with GPS equipment. Inverse-distance interpolation technique in GIS was used for constituting maps of groundwater depth and salinity. For this purpose,


the study area was divided in grids of 0.25 ha area cells. Value of each variable within the grid cells was calculated using inverse-distance interpolation method. The detailed procedure and relevant parameters used in calculations are described by etin et al. 11. Results and Discussion Changes of groundwater depth: The study area has been under irrigation for nearly 50 years. Although it is rather common occurrence of drainage and salinity in areas under intensive irrigation, the drainage problem was not evident before opening of the irrigation season in our study area (Fig. 3). As noted by Demir and Antepli 18, the peak irrigation season in AID is July. Therefore, the spread of drainage problem (groundwater depth < 1 m) was the worst in July (Fig. 3). Average groundwater depths in May, July and September were respectively 1.490.62, 1.160.65 and 1.400.57 m. The area coverage with average groundwater depths less than 1 m was only 8.5% (810 ha) in May; whereas it increased to 32.4% in July, and decreased to 10.5% in September (Table 1). The results showed that the main cause of drainage in the area was irrigation. Reports by other authors 18, 11 also had similar conclusions.

Table 1. Area coverage (%) with different groundwater depths (m) in Akarsu Irrigation District.
Time May July September <1.0 8.5 32.4 10.5 1.0-1.5 40.3 49.4 52.4 1.5-2.0 45.2 16.4 32.5 2.0< 6.0 1.7 4.6

The groundwater depth in May, just before the opening of the irrigation season, was influenced by winter rains. During the period from May to September the rainfall is rather scarce and thus irrigation is essential for agricultural production. Thus, the groundwater depth during this period is essentially determined by irrigation practices. Consistent with intensity of irrigation, the area coverage of groundwater depths when it is within the range of 1.0-1.5 m was 40.3%, 49.4% and 52.4%, respectively, in May, July and September (Table 1). Changes in groundwater salinity: During the study, groundwater samples were collected from the groundwater observation wells and analyzed for electrical conductivity (EC, dS m-1). Average EC values (SD) in May, July and September were 4.310.1, 2.84.3

Figure 3. Spatial changes of groundwater table depths in May and July. 650 Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment, Vol.9 (1), January 2011

and 3.45.0 dS m-1, respectively. The average EC values were highest in May, before beginning of the irrigation season. Similarly the EC data in May showed the highest spatial variability compared with that in July (Fig. 4). During the month of July when irrigation is at its peak, the groundwater EC values were proportionally lower than that during other months. This finding was most probably due to the excess use of irrigation water. The lowest groundwater salinity (< 2 dS m-1) was measured in southeastern part of the study area. The area coverage of salinity greater that 5 dS m-1, a critical threshold value accepted in drainage engineering studies 1, 9, 13, 14, was 23.9%, 14.2% and 21.4%, respectively, in May, July and September (Table 2). The coverage of areas with groundwater salinity of 3-5 dS m-1 was not changed and maintained at about the same value (~19%) during the study period (Table 2). The areas having drainage problem with saline groundwater may carry high risks of having salt and sodium affected soils with low permeability 1, 7, 18. In the study area, it was noted that irrigation

Table 2. Area coverage (%) with different groundwater EC (dS m-1) in Akarsu Irrigation District.
Time May July September <2 39.0 43.9 42.1 Groundwater salinity range, EC (dS m-1) 2-3 3-5 5-10 Area coverage (%) 18.6 18.5 14.9 22.9 18.9 10.9 18.3 18.2 15.5 10< 9.0 3.3 5.9

efficiency was 20%, with very low water use efficiency of 29%. The district irrigation management was such that supply of water was based on continuous flow system. Although the growers in the area are supposed to continue irrigation during nights as well, there is no practice of irrigation at nights. Thus amount of water wasted as drainage water increases during nights. On the other hand, there are endless arguments among the growers, claiming that water allocated was not enough.

Figure 4. Spatial changes in groundwater salinity as EC (dS m-1) in May and July. Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment, Vol.9 (1), January 2011 651

Conclusions Although the areas having critical drainage problem (groundwater depth <1.0 m) was only 8.5% before the irrigation season, it increased to 32.4% toward mid-season. Thus, the drainage problem and its areal coverage reached the highest level during the peak irrigation season. The maps for groundwater depths also confirmed that the drainage problem becomes evident only at the beginning of irrigation season. The areal coverage of the areas with groundwater EC > 5 dS m-1 was 24%, 14% and 21%, respectively, in May, July and September. As the spread of drainage increased, groundwater salinity decreased most probably due to increased dilution effect of excess irrigation, low irrigation system efficiency and very low cropwater-use efficiency. The irrigation management in the study area requires radical changes as to increase both irrigation system and crop water use efficiency to sustain the existing crop productivity of the area. The continuous flow regime presently in use should be modified in such a way that the flow at nights must be minimized to reduce waste of water to drainage. Acknowledgements This work was funded by European Union, through project QUALIWATER: Diagnosis and Control of Salinity and Nitrate Pollution in Mediterranean Irrigated Agriculture (Project No: INCOCT-2005-015031) and by Cukurova University Academic Research Support (Project No: ZF2006KAP1). The authors also would like to thank the Research Fund of Akdeniz University for its partial support. References


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