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Title: Developing a Multicriteria Decision Analysis Framework to Evaluate Reclaimed Wastewater Use for Agricultural Irrigation: The Case Study of Maryland
Groundwater is the main source of irrigation and residential use in the Eastern Shore Maryland, which is experiencing challenges regarding overuse, saltwater intrusion, and diminishing productivity. The Chesapeake Bay is also facing the problem of water pollution due to pollutant loading from agricultural fields and wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Using recycled water for irrigation has the potential to alleviate the pressure on groundwater and reduce pollutant loading. The objective of this study was to develop a decision tool to explore the use of recycled water for agricultural irrigation in Maryland using Multicriteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) integrated with Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Four main evaluation criteria were included in the GIS-MCDA framework: agricultural land cover, climate, groundwater vulnerability, and characteristics of the WWTPs as sources of recycled water. Groundwater vulnerability zones were developed using the groundwater well density, water extraction data, and the aquifer information. Then, the most suitable areas for irrigation using recycled water were identified. About 13.5% and 32.9% of agricultural land was, respectively, found to be “highly” and “moderately” suitable for irrigation with recycled water when WWTPs were categorized based on their treatment process information. The results provide a useful decision tool to promote the use of recycled water for agricultural irrigation.  more » « less
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National Science Foundation
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