Water Quality Impacts on Agricultural Productivity and Environment

  • Alfred O. M. Okorogbona
  • Freddie D. N. Denner
  • Lavhelesani R. Managa
  • Tsunduka B. Khosa
  • Khathutshelo Maduwa
  • Patrick O. Adebola
  • Stephen O. Amoo
  • Hanyeleni M. Ngobeni
  • Stanford Macevele
Part of the Sustainable Agriculture Reviews book series (SARV, volume 27)


An estimated 20% of the world’s cropland under irrigated farming produces 40% of the global harvest, which means that irrigation accounts for more than double land productivity. In arid and semi-arid regions of the world, irrigation improves economic returns and boost production up to 400%. Water pollution is a serious threat to agricultural productivity and human health. Research has ascertained that poor water quality resulting from waste discharge into rivers negatively affect crop, animal and soil productivity. Hence, the need to unveil various ways in which human activities negatively affects the quality of water is considered fundamental for today and future generations.

We retrieved information on how water quality affects crop growth and development; the impact of cultivating food crops, using soil contaminated with wastes from humans and or industries. Information on wastewater use in other farming activities; assessment of the effect of heavy metals in agricultural productivity and the impact of soil contamination on produce quality were highlighted.

We found that vegetable crops including cucumber, irrigated with rain water had the highest growth rate with a height of 100 cm, as compared to those irrigated with waste and underground water, which had heights of 45 and 58 cm, respectively. The content of lead (Pb) was found to be low in ground water (0.5 mg L−1), as compared to high contents of the heavy metal found in urban treated and untreated effluents, which were 2.7 and 4.9 mg L−1, respectively. The content of chromium in urban treated effluents 0.03 mg L−1 and urban untreated effluents 0.04 mg L−1 were higher than that of ground water, which was found to be 0.02 mg L−1 as obtained from the average of 48 different analyses. High arsenic level in water negatively affect crop yield. Highest rice yield-3.11 g pot−1 was obtained from water free of arsenate (control), as compared to 0.98 g pot−1 obtained from rice grown in soil irrigated with the highest level of arsenic. At 20 mg kg−1 mercury concentration, tomato failed to produce flower and fruit. High concentration of cadmium at 80 mg L−1 negatively affected the germination of wheat. Oil deposit in soil increases the content of sodium (Na), potassium (K) and cation exchange capacity. Oil deposits to soil decreases the content of magnesium (Mg), exchangeable acidity, organic carbon and organic matter.


Wastes Pollution Environment Crop Soil Marine life 



The authors of this chapter are grateful to all the scientists, agriculturists and researchers whose information retrieved from their research findings, reassessed works and books have contributed to this review work. We acknowledge that the findings presented in this chapter are indicative and not necessarily a total compilation of the findings on the topic. We apologise to authors whose works were not cited to keep the manuscript concise. The authors wish to thank Ms. Keneliwe Hlahane for providing photographs on the acid mine drainage. We also wish to thank Ms. Mafoyane P Malewa for helping us with technical check on the manuscript. The authors are most grateful to Professor Adegoke A Anthony of the Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology, Durban University of Technology-South Africa, for giving us the permission to use the oil spill photographs from his research endeavour. Opinions expressed and conclusion arrived at, are those of the authors and are not necessarily attributable to Rolfes Agri, AISA-HSRC, IITA, DWS and ARC.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alfred O. M. Okorogbona
    • 1
  • Freddie D. N. Denner
    • 1
  • Lavhelesani R. Managa
    • 2
  • Tsunduka B. Khosa
    • 3
  • Khathutshelo Maduwa
    • 3
  • Patrick O. Adebola
    • 4
  • Stephen O. Amoo
    • 5
  • Hanyeleni M. Ngobeni
    • 5
  • Stanford Macevele
    • 3
  1. 1.Research and Development DepartmentRolfes Agri (Pty) Ltd-a member of Rolfes GroupPretoriaRepublic of South Africa
  2. 2.Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA)Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)PretoriaSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS)PretoriaSouth Africa
  4. 4.International Institute of Tropical Agriculture(IITA), Abuja station, Beside Old Water WorksAbujaNigeria
  5. 5.Agricultural Research Council(ARC)-Roodeplaat, Vegetable and Ornamental Plant (VOP), Kwamhlanga/ Moloto roadPretoriaSouth Africa

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