Ramírez-Fuentes E., Lucho-Constantino C.A., Escamilla-Silva E., Dendooven L. (2002). Characteristics and carbon and nitrogen dynamics in soil irrigated with wastewater for different lengths of time. Bioresourse Technology. 85, 179-187.
Irrigation of agricultural land with wastewater will increase crop production, but also heavy metal concentrations and the rate of infection of farmers with pathogens. The risks associated with the use of wastewater are reduced by treating the wastewater, but treatment also reduces organic material, phosphorus and inorganic N for crops. We investigated characteristics, e.g. heavy metal concentrations, of soils of the valley of the Mezquital (Mexico) irrigated with waste from Mexico City water since 1912, 1925, 1965, 1976, 1996 or 1997, or not irrigated at all, and dynamics of C and N when soil was amended with wastewater or drainage water. Concentrations of total Mg, Hg, Mo, Ca, Cu and Cr, available concentrations of Pb, Cd and Cu increased significantly with length of irrigation (P<0.05), but were not at hazardous concentrations. Although organic C, total N, microbial biomass C and N, and microbial activity, as witnessed by CO2 production, increased with length of irrigation, N mineralization did not. Oxidation of NO2? was inhibited and could be due to increases in salinity, toxic compounds or heavy metals. We found that N mineralization was low or absent so it will not compensate for the loss of N when the wastewater is treated and application of N fertilizer will be required to maintain the same level of crop production. The characteristics of the soils appear not to have deteriorated after years of application of wastewater, but further irrigation even with treated wastewater might increase sodicity and salinity and pose a threat to future crop production.