Moisture retention and salinity control using zeolites in soil

Mark Torres, University of Texas at El Paso


There is a great need in the desert southwest United States for exploring ways to save water in agriculture as it accounts for up to 90 percent of water consumption in many western states (USDA 2016). As surface water reaches critical lows the dependence on ground water has increased leading to the need for deeper wells with higher salt concentrations. The studies conducted for this research included using zeolites from the St Cloud Mining Company in Winston, New Mexico to determine the feasibility of using these zeolites to help and retain moisture in zeolite treated soils. The Volumetric Water Content and conductivity were measured over time with groundwater models in a lab as well as samples evaluated in realistic desert conditions outdoors. The zeolite was evaluated for its ability to remove cations from solution using batch and column studies. Further testing was conducted in simulating rainwater runoff from zeolite treated soils to determine if the zeolite would decrease runoff and keep more water in the soil. A market analysis and business plan was created to determine the market for a potential product in the zeolite. The studies determined the zeolite was capable of increasing the amount of water stored in the soil when compared to untreated soils in the lab as well as the outdoor tests. Conductivity was affected in these soils causing an increase which is directly related to total dissolved solids. The column studies determined the zeolite could be modified so that it could adsorb sodium ions while releasing calcium ions which could help with crops susceptible to sodicity.

Subject Area

Agriculture|Environmental engineering

Recommended Citation

Torres, Mark, "Moisture retention and salinity control using zeolites in soil" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10248785.