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Sustainability of natural attenuation of nitrate in agricultural aquifers

October 28, 2010

Increased concentrations of nitrate in groundwater in agricultural areas, coinciding with increased use of chemical and organic fertilizers, have raised concern because of risks to environmental and human health. At some sites, these problems are mitigated by natural attenuation of nitrate as a result of microbially mediated reactions. Results from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research under the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program show that reactions of dissolved nitrate with solid aquifer minerals and organic carbon help lower nitrate concentrations in groundwater beneath agricultural fields. However, increased fluxes of nitrate cause ongoing depletion of the finite pool of solid reactants. Consumption of the solid reactants diminishes the capacity of the aquifer to remove nitrate, calling into question the long-term sustainability of these natural attenuation processes.

Publication Year 2010
Title Sustainability of natural attenuation of nitrate in agricultural aquifers
DOI 10.3133/fs20103077
Authors Christopher T. Green, Barbara A. Bekins
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 2010-3077
Index ID fs20103077
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Water Quality Assessment Program