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Very high alkalinity water -- what can/can't I grow?

Posted by mc510 (My Page) on
Fri, Mar 15, 13 at 12:43

My family is contemplating a move to Davis, CA, where municipal water comes from wells and has very high alkalinity (200 - 560 ppm) and pH of 8.3. (I don't know the pH of the soil, but I don't think it's as extreme as the water.) Summers are VERY hot with NO rain, so irrigation is the rule.

How much of an impact will the alkalinity of the water have on what I can grow? I'm not thinking about acid-loving plants like hydrangeas and blueberries; I'm just wondering if I'll be able to grow regular old garden plants like roses, glossy abelia, citrus, ceanothus ... the kind of stuff that grows with no special care or attention where I currently live (Berkeley area).

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Very high alkalinity water -- what can/can't I grow?

Are you are confusing dissolved solids (which in your case is freaking high!) with alkalinity (the measurement of pH or acidity)? Plus tap water pH is usually variable throughout the year.

Water pH is not material. There is very little buffering capacity in water. And while most soil buffering is not great, it is much stronger than water. So regardless of water pH the soil pH remains unchanged by the water added. Ideal soil pH is 6.5+/-0.3.

RE: Very high alkalinity water -- what can/can't I grow?

Nope, 200 - 560 ppm is the actual reported Alkalinity from the official water quality report (link below). I don't know much about this subject, but I read somewhere that 100+ ppm is considered high alkalinity, and this is MUCH higher ... hence my concern about how it might affect the health and viability of garden plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: Water quality report

RE: Very high alkalinity water -- what can/can't I grow?

  • Posted by hoovb z9 Southern CA (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 16, 13 at 18:09

Or is it hardness (carbonate), which is measured in ppm?

We have crappy water here, and things grow fine. I think the Davis area has some issues not with water but with some areas that have a soil problem. Can't remember what it was though. Hopefully someone from Davis will chime in soon...ahhhh...looking at the water report, looks like boron is a problem in some areas. I think it was boron you have to watch out for.

Whatever it is, mulching and keeping the garden mulched with good quality compost makes everything better. Also saving rain water and drenching soil with it washes a lot of the bad stuff irrigation water leaves behind below the root systems of most plants. You learn to deal with what you have...

Here is a link that might be useful: davis wiki on Boron

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