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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Landscape and Watershed Processes

Surface Biosolids Application


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 34 No. 1, p. 299-311
    Received: Mar 1, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): cmoffet@nwrc.ars.usda.gov
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  1. C. A. Moffet *a,
  2. R. E. Zartmanb,
  3. D. B. Westerc and
  4. R. E. Sosebeec
  1. a USDA-ARS, Northwest Watershed Research Center, 800 Park Boulevard, Plaza IV, Suite 105, Boise, ID 83712
    b Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409
    c Department of Range, Wildlife and Fisheries Management, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409


Land application of biosolids is a beneficial-use practice whose ecological effects depend in part on hydrological effects. Biosolids were surface-applied to square 0.5-m2 plots at four rates (0, 7, 34, and 90 dry Mg ha−1) on each of three soil–cover combinations in Chihuahuan Desert grassland and shrubland. Infiltration and erosion were measured during two seasons for three biosolids post-application ages. Infiltration was measured during eight periods of a 30-min simulated rain. Biosolids application affected infiltration rate, cumulative infiltration, and erosion. Infiltration increased with increasing biosolids application rate. Application of biosolids at 90 dry Mg ha−1 increased steady-state infiltration rate by 1.9 to 7.9 cm h−1 Most of the measured differences in runoff among biosolids application rates were too large to be the result of interception losses and/or increased hydraulic gradient due to increased roughness. Soil erosion was reduced by the application of biosolids; however, the extent of reduction in erosion depended on the initial erodibility of the site. Typically, the greatest marginal reductions in erosion were achieved at the lower biosolids application rates (7 and 34 dry Mg ha−1); the difference in erosion between 34 and 90 dry Mg ha−1 biosolids application rates was not significant. Surface application of biosolids has important hydrological consequences on runoff and soil erosion in desert grasslands that depend on the rate of biosolids applied, and the site and biosolids characteristics.

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