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The quality of a water for irrigation is determined by the quantity and type of substances dissolved in it. In normal, unpolluted waters the dissolved material is largely inorganic. These inorganic salts are leached from the rocks and soils through which the water passes. The addition of industrial wastes to such water would, in most cases, render the water less suitable for irrigation. It is possible, however, that its quality might be improved if the proportions of the cations were favorably changed or if fertilizer constituents were added. There is a very large body of literature on the toxicology of both organic and inorganic compounds for laboratory animals and man. It is safe to assume, however, that there is a large number of substances for which the toxicology is not known. By comparison, the literature is very limited on the effect of such compounds on plants. Many of these citations refer to investigations in which plants are grown in nutrient solutions to which is added the substance under test. Very few of the studies involved the growth of plants in soil irrigated with water to which the test material is added. As a result, good experimental data are not available for many materials that might be present in industrial wastes. The more important pollutants, for which information is available, are considered below with comments on their effect on the quality of irrigation water.
Wilcox, L. V.
Soil Scientist, Agricultural Research Service, Riverside, Calif.