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Nutrients in the Nation's Waters--Too Much of a Good Thing?

June 1, 1996

Historical data on nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from about 12,000 ground-water and more than 22,000 stream samples have been compiled and related to possible sources. This existing information was collected by many agencies for a variety of purposes. Therefore, though it can be used to determine where concentrations differ, the exact percentages should not be taken as those for the Nation as a whole. Major findings include: (1) nutrient concentrations in water generally are related to land use in the area overlying ground-water aquifers or upstream from surface-water locations, (2) regional differences are related to differences in soil-drainage properties and agricultural practices, (3) nitrate concentrations in about 12 percent of domestic-supply wells in agricultural areas exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's drinking-water standard (10 mg/L), and (4) nitrate concentrations in surface water rarely exceed the drinking-water standard. This information has helped identify locations across the Nation where ground water and streams are most likely to be vulnerable to nutrient contamination. Programs to manage and protect water resources can therefore be targeted to the most critical areas, providing the greatest protection for the least cost.

Publication Year 1996
Title Nutrients in the Nation's Waters--Too Much of a Good Thing?
DOI 10.3133/cir1136
Authors David K. Mueller, Dennis R. Helsel
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Circular
Series Number 1136
Index ID cir1136
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization U.S. Geological Survey