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Occurrence of nitrous oxide in the central High Plains aquifer, 1999

Environmental Science and Technology

By:
, , , , and
DOI: 10.1021/es001233t

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Abstract

Nitrogen-enriched groundwater has been proposed as an important anthropogenic source of atmospheric nitrous oxide (N2O), yet few measurements of N2O in large aquifer systems have been made. Concentrations of N2O in water samples collected from the 124 000 km2 central High Plains aquifer in 1999 ranged from < 1 to 940 nM, with a median concentration of 29 nM (n = 123). Eighty percent of the N20 concentrations exceeded the aqueous concentration expected from equilibration with atmospheric N2O. Measurements of N2O, NO3-, and 3H in unsaturated-zone sediments, recently recharged groundwater, and older groundwater indicate that concentrations of N2O in groundwater increased over time and will likely continue to increase in the future as N-enriched water recharges the aquifer. Large concentrations of O2 and NO3- and small concentrations of NH4+ and dissolved organic carbon in the aquifer indicate that N2O in the central High Plains aquifer was produced primarily by nitrification. Calculations indicate that the flux of N2O from the central High Plains aquifer to the atmosphere from well pumping and groundwater discharge to streams was not a significant source of atmospheric N2O.Nitrogen-enriched groundwater has been proposed as an important anthropogenic source of atmospheric nitrous oxide (N2O), yet few measurements of N2O in large aquifer systems have been made. Concentrations of N2O in water samples collected from the 124000 km2 central High Plains aquifer in 1999 ranged from < 1 to 940 nM, with a median concentration of 29 nM (n = 123). Eighty percent of the N2O concentrations exceeded the aqueous concentration expected from equilibration with atmospheric N2O. Measurements of N2O, NO3-, and 3H in unsaturated-zone sediments, recently recharged groundwater, and older groundwater indicate that concentrations of N2O in groundwater increased over time and will likely continue to increase in the future as N-enriched water recharges the aquifer. Large concentrations of O2 and NO3- and small concentrations of NH4+ and dissolved organic carbon in the aquifer indicate that N2O in the central High Plains aquifer was produced primarily by nitrification. Calculations indicate that the flux of N2O from the central High Plains aquifer to the atmosphere from well pumping and groundwater discharge to streams was not a significant source of atmospheric N2O.Water samples were collected from 92 domestic wells, 16 monitoring wells and 15 public-supply wells in the High Plains Aquifer in 1999, and concentrations of nitrous oxide were measured. The groundwater concentrations ranged from less than 1 to 940 nM. Concentrations expressed as a percent of saturation in water ranged from less than 10 to 9690%. A significant decrease was noted in N2O concentrations with increasing depth of the well screen below the water table, and a significant positive correlation was found between the concentrations of N2O and nitrate. The small area-averaged N2O emission rate for the aquifer indicated that it was not an important component of the atmospheric N2O budget, but the importance could increase as groundwater N2O concentrations increase.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Occurrence of nitrous oxide in the central High Plains aquifer, 1999
Series title:
Environmental Science and Technology
DOI:
10.1021/es001233t
Volume
34
Issue:
23
Year Published:
2000
Language:
English
Publisher:
ACS
Publisher location:
Washington, DC, United States
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Environmental Science and Technology
First page:
4873
Last page:
4877