2023 journal article
Drainage water recycling reduced nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment losses from a drained agricultural field in eastern North Carolina, USA
AGRICULTURAL WATER MANAGEMENT, 279.
An experimental study was conducted to evaluate the effect of drainage water recycling (DWR) on reducing nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and sediment losses from agricultural fields to downstream surface water bodies. The two-year study (May 2019-April 2021) was conducted at an agricultural field in eastern North Carolina, U.S.A. A reservoir existed at the site was used to store subsurface drainage and surface runoff water during wet periods and provide supplemental irrigation during dry periods of the crop growing season. On average, the reservoir retained 14% of received inflow, with a higher flow reduction in the dry year (2019–2020; 29%) than the wet year (2020–2021; 8%). The hydraulic retention time (HRT) for the reservoir was 33.8 days for the dry year and 12.4 days for the wet year. The reservoir significantly reduced the loadings of N by 47%, P by 30% and sediment by 87%. Nitrogen load reduction was primarily driven by nitrate assimilation, the dominant form of N in the reservoir. Phosphorus load reduction was attributed to Orthophosphate assimilation as the reservoir released more particulate P than received. Reductions in both water flow and species concentration contributed to nutrient load reductions. Results suggested the removal efficiency of the reservoir would be highest during the summer and early fall months when the reservoir has a smaller water volume (due to irrigation), longer HRT, and warmer temperature. This study clearly demonstrated the potential of DWR for significantly reducing N, P, and sediment losses from agricultural land to receiving surface water. Further research is needed to investigate the physical, chemical, and biological processes that occur in the storage reservoir and affect the fate and transport of nutrients and sediment. The understanding of these processes will enable optimizing the treatment efficiency of DWR, which maximizes the system’s benefits and reduces construction cost.