Most brine ponds and other types of evaporation ponds are intended for long-term use, but eventually the land needs to be reclaimed, especially near cities or agricultural regions. When safeguards and proper maintenance have been employed, this can be as simple as emptying out any remaining brine and removing liners and any associated structures.
In cases where a spill or other damage has occurred, there are several different strategies that can be used. One popular method involves wholesale excavation of top layers of soil in the affected area, a process known as “scraping”. This is often followed by replacement with “clean” soil, preferably from a local source. Even so, this method has typically produced only limited success.
In some situations, a longer-term approach is taken to reclaim land with high salt accumulation such as former irrigation runoff ponds. Coastal grasses are tolerant to higher salt levels and can often thrive in such locations after a few years. The grasses can be used as forage for cows, sheep and goats, which in turn contribute valuable manure that enriches the soil. Over time, conversion to salt-tolerant crops can be considered, as long as the original source of salt contamination has been fully addressed.
Whenever a pond is likely to have or could potentially develop any significant level of salt concentration it’s a best practice to first install an impermeable liner that covers every inch of soil (plus some) that will be exposed. This prevents salt and other minerals from soaking the soil below, making it much easier to reuse once the liner is removed.