Artesian Waters in Australia.
An interesting discovery, which has been exciting much attention in Australia, is a method of correcting the toxic tendencies of alkaline artesian waters and thus rendering them valuable for agricultural irrigation by utilizing nitric acid to overcome the alkalinity of the water. A series of experiments have been carried out in the artesian area of New South Wales by R. S. Symmonds, agricultural chemist, to ascertain the effects of applying nitric acid to soils impregnated with carbonate of soda from artesian water. The results achieved have been astonishingly successful and seem to justify the hope that vast areas of Australia where artesian water can be obtained by boring, but is ordinarily so alakline as to injure the soil, can he made in the future capable of yielding large crops. The artesian area of Australia is estimated at over 640,090 square miles, of which 376,000 are in Queensland, 119,000 in South Australia, 83,000 in New South Wales and 75,000 in West Australia. I his is a larger area than is contained within the total area of the three largest states ot the United StatesTexas. 205,780 square miles; California, 158,360 square miles, and Montana, 146,080 square miles so that some idea can be gained of the tremendous extent of country which may be rendered valuable for agricultural purposes, if results of recent investigations into the chemistry of the soil and artesian water in these vast districts can he put to practical use. These artesian areas lie mostly within the arid portions of the Australian continent, where drought usually reigns perennially, but where deep bores reveal apparently inexhaustible supplies of water, which, as already explained, is too alkaline, generally speaking, for irrigation, although it can often be used for watering stock. In an interesting article in the February issue of the Lone Hand Magazine, of Sydney, tintheory of the nitric acid treatment of soil by Mr. Symmonds is explained. This article states that, in investigating why the passage of alkaline water over the soil made it barren, Mr. Symmonds obtained samples of the soil from those districts that had not been in contact with bore water and watched the results of treating them with it. He found that tile virgin soil, which was highly fertile when treated with rain water, proved to be highly acid soil. This acid soil treated with bore water gradually became harder and harder, until the whole mass was impervious to air and water; and plants must have air and water around their roots from which to extract the nitrates. Fie found that this soil contained a fine colloidal substance in coagulated lumps; and when alkaline water flows over it these coagulated lumps showed a tendency to swell and break up and become diffused throughout the mass of the soil. More alkaline water caused the process to continue and the diffusion of the colloidal day became more general, until at last all the empty spaces in the mass of earth were filled by a jellylike skeleton forming between the earth particles, which effectually prevented the passage of air or water through the soil. In the acid soil the colloidal clay and iron were coagulated and reposed in small concentrated lumps. Evidently acid had a tendency to coagulate the colloids and alkalies to diffuse them. To prevent alkaline water having a diffusing effect on the colloids a quantity of nitric acid was added and this was tried on virgin soil in which wheat was planted. As a result of this experiment not only did the colloids fail to diffuse, but the soil became richer when treated with rain water, for the water contained lime and potash that was soluble in water, and was therefore capable of being used by the roots as a plant food. In other words, the nitricacid prevented the diffusion of the colloidal clay, kept it coagulated and allowed the roots to absorb not only the nitrates obtained from the air and water by the action of soil bacteria, hut increased the supply liberally and made the lime and potash soluble in water. Many other experiments have been made, some on patches of soil that had long been sterilized by the action of alkaline water from artesian bores and all of them indicated the great benefit of applying ical action of alkaline artesian water.
The city council at Rahway, N. J., is considering the advisability of improving its water system. It is feared that when the new 5,000,000-gallon pump is put in operation the old mains will not stand the pressure. Most of the mains were laid 40 years ago, and were guaranteed fen only 30 years.