Document Type


Publication Date

January 1982


Salinity control is a major component of water management in arid climates and irrigated areas and one of particular concern in the Colorado River Basin. The alts enter the water as it flows over land or moves through the soil or geologic formations. The principal salt collection processes are 1) dissolution from the soil surface during runoff events, 2) transpiration of soil water leaving salt residuals, 3) efflorescence left by evaporating seepage and then dissolved by subsequent runoff, 4) dissolution with weathering of fixed bed channels, 5) salts released by sediments entering the channel from sheet, gulley, and bank erosion, and 6) deep percolation through saline aquifer reaching the stream as base flow. This study examined processes 3 and 5. Salt efflorescence was examined by field observation and instrumentation, laboratory experiments, and mathematical modeling. The field data showed near saturation conditions of sodium sulfate waters below crusts of densities between 0.14 and 0.36 g/cm^2 and which formed over abouta 10-day period following channel cleaning by storm runoff. Laboratory data on salt crusting in soil columns were also used in developing a model which when applied to the Price River Basin estimated that no more than 7.5 percent of the total salt loading comes from salt efflorescence being carried away in the stream flow. The conditions favorable to the accumulation of salt efflorescence are highly saline water just below the soil surface and a source of heat for vaporizing the water. Salt release from suspended sediments was studied by laboratory experimentation with sediment material obtained from various locations in the Price River Basin. The Buckinham Pi Theorem was employed to derive relationships expressing the EC of a sediment water system as a function o fthe controlling factors. The results were presented in two salt release equations, one excluding the effect of initial EC and the other providing for initially saline solutions. The salt release equations were incorporated into an adapted version of the Watershed Erosion and Sediment Transport (WEST) model and applied to a small tributary of Coal Creek. Extrapolation to the entire Price River Basin led to an estimate that about 0.50 percent of the total annual salt load is released from suspened sediments. This study concludes that surface salt sources produce a relatvely small fraction of the total loading. Future studies need to go underground. They need to quantify and examine the flow lines of water movement from mountain source and valley floow recharge areas to points of emergence as base flow in the larger stream channels. They need to investigate the aquifers and their soluble salt content.