Role of Nitrogen in Assessing the Sustainability of Irrigated Areas: Case Study of Northern Mexico


World’s food production relies on crops grown in irrigated land to feed an increasing population. In the long term, irrigation agriculture may cause environmental deterioration to the area (soil degradation, aquifer contamination) and its surroundings (greenhouse gas emission, eutrophication) to compromise crop production. Three irrigated areas in northern Mexico (Yaqui Valley, Delicias, Comarca Lagunera) were examined with respect to the challenges to achieve sustainability using reported values of nitrogen (N) along with the conventional aquifer depletion and water contamination parameters. N O emissions, measured in only the Yaqui Valley, amounted to up to 4.5% of applied N, and nitrate losses to about 18%. The water tables of these aquifers are dropping at rates of 0.4 m year (Delicias) to 1.5 m year (Comarca Lagunera). High NO concentrations in the Comarca Lagunera (66.2% of wells above 10 mg L NO –N) pose a threat to human health. Although lower than 10 mg L NO –N in most wells, NO levels in Delicias and Yaqui Valley are increasing with time, although more data are needed to confirm the trend. Overall, and although the efforts by farmers still focus on increasing crop yield, awareness of the advantage of implementing measures towards sustainability is on the rise. 2 3 3 3 3 −1 −1 − −1 −1 −


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Document Type




Agriculture, Aquifer depletion, Irrigation, Nitrate, Nitrous oxide

Publication Date


Journal Title

Water, Air, and Soil Pollution