University of California

Soil salinity poses challenges for sustainable agriculture and wildlife


John Letey

Author Affiliations

J. Letey is Distinguished Professor of Soil Physics, UC Riverside, and Director of the UC Center for Water Resources, and Salinity and Drainage Program.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 54(2):43-48. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n02p43. March 2000.

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If soil becomes too saline, crop productivity falls. In California, the Imperial Valley and western San Joaquin Valley are major areas of concern where salinity can harm agricultural productivity. The Imperial Valley has achieved salt balance by discharging salty drainage water into the Salton Sea, but this practice threatens fish and possibly birds. Without an avenue to remove salts from the western San Joaquin Valley, long-term agricultural productivity is jeopardized unless an in-valley sink, such as evaporation ponds, can be used to accumulate the salts. However, high selenium concentrations in drainage-water evaporation ponds can be hazardous to birds. The future of agriculture and wildlife in both valleys can be enhanced by cooperative, innovative approaches between government, growers and environmental advocates. For example, water allocated for agriculture can be used to construct highly productive “compensation habitats,” which can attract high concentrations of nesting birds and offset negative impacts to wildlife at the Salton Sea and West Side evaporation ponds.


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Letey J. 2000. Soil salinity poses challenges for sustainable agriculture and wildlife. Hilgardia 54(2):43-48. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n02p43
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