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Water Sci Technol. 2012;65(4):676-82. doi: 10.2166/wst.2012.901.

Seasonal ammonia losses from spray-irrigation with secondary-treated recycled water.

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Department of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, MS 8145, Los Angeles, CA 90045-2659, USA.


This work examines ammonia volatilization associated with agricultural irrigation employing recycled water. Effluent from a secondary wastewater treatment plant was applied using a center pivot irrigation system on a 12 ha agricultural site in Palmdale, California. Irrigation water was captured in shallow pans and ammonia concentrations were quantified in four seasonal events. The average ammonia loss ranged from 15 to 35% (averaging 22%) over 2-h periods. Temporal mass losses were well-fit using a first-order model. The resulting rate constants correlated primarily with temperature and secondarily with wind speed. The observed application rates and timing were projected over an entire irrigation season using meteorological time series data from the site, which yielded volatilization estimates of 0.03 to 0.09 metric tons NH(3)-N/ha per year. These rates are consistent with average rates (0.04 to 0.08 MT NH(3)-N/ha per year) based on 10 to 20 mg NH(3)-N/L effluent concentrations and a 22% average removal. As less than 10% of the treated effluent in California is currently reused, there is potential for this source to increase, but the increase may be offset by a corresponding reduction in synthetic fertilizers usage. This point is a factor for consideration with respect to nutrient management using recycled water.

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