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Water Environ Res. 2012 Aug;84(8):673-81.

A new approach for the assessment of groundwater quality and its suitability for irrigation: a case study of the Korba Coastal Aquifer (Tunisia, Africa).

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  • 1Centre International des Technologies de l'Environnement de Tunis Boulevard du Leader Yasser Arafat, 1080 Tunis, Tunisia.


Groundwater is the main source of water in Mediterranean, water-scarce, semiarid regions of Tunisia, Africa. In this study of the Korba coastal aquifer, 17 water wells were studied to assess their suitability for irrigation and drinking purposes. Assessment parameters include pH, salinity, specific ion toxicity, sodium adsorption ratio, nutrients, trace metals pollutants, and fecal indicators and pathogens. Results indicate that salinity of groundwater varied between 0.36 dS/m and 17.4 dS/m; in addition, its degree of restriction is defined as "none", "slight to moderate", and "severe" for 18, 23, and 59% of the studied wells, respectively. To control salts brought in by irrigation waters, the question arises as to how much water should be used to reach crop and soil requirements. To answer this question, a new approach that calculates the optimum amount of irrigation water considering the electrical conductivity of well water (ECw), field crops, and the semiarid meteorological local conditions for evapotranspiration and rainfall is developed. This is applied to the authors' case study area; barley and lettuce were selected among the commonly grown crops because they are high- and low-salinity tolerant, respectively. Leaching requirements were found to be independent of the crop selected, and depend only on the season, that is, 250 to 260 mm/month in the driest season, with a minimum of 47 mm/month though all seasons. A high bacteriological contamination appears in almost all samples. However, if disinfected and corrected for pH, all the well waters can be used for animal farming (including livestock and poultry), although only 29% could be used for human consumption.

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