Relationships between groundwater, surface water, and soil salinity in Polder 32, Southwest Bangladesh

Monday, 15 December 2014
David Christopher Fry and John C Ayers, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, United States
In the coastal areas of Southwest Bangladesh polders are surrounded by tidal channels filled with brackish water. In the wet season, farmers create openings in the embankments to irrigate rice paddies. In the dry season, farmers do the same to create saline shrimp ponds. Residents on Polder 32, located within the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta system, practice these seasonal farming techniques. Soils in the area are entisols, being sediment recently deposited, and contain mostly silt-sized particles. Brackish water in brine shrimp ponds may deposit salt in the soil, causing soil salinization. However, saline connate groundwater could also be contributing to soil salinization. Groundwater, surface water (fresh water pond, rice paddy and tidal channel water) and soil samples have been analyzed via inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy, inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy and ion chromatography in an attempt to correlate salinity measurements with each other in order to determine major sources of soil salinity. Multiple parameters, including distances of samples from tidal channels, inland streams, shrimp ponds and tube wells were measured to see if spatial correlations exist. Similarly, values from wet and dry seasons were compared to quantify temporal variations. Salt content in many soil samples were found to be high enough to significantly decrease rice yields. Continued soil salinization can decrease these yields even more, leading to farmers not producing enough food to sustain their families.