Increasing nitrate-N in ground water is a problem in areas with limited ground-water supplies, such as central Kansas. Nitrate-N concentrations in ground water in the study area in Ellis County range from 0.9 to 26 mg/L. Calculated mean values observed in soil cores are 1.2-15 mg/kg. The ??15N signatures of the ground waters are more enriched (+16.8 to +28.7???) than those of the soils (+8.4 to +1 3.7???), strongly suggesting that nitrate-N sources are not from mineralized and labile nitrogen present in the unsaturated zone. Soil cores were collected near municipal wells to determine if soil nitrogen was a contributing source to the ground water. Increased ??15N of total nitrogen with depth suggests that microbial mineralization processes and possible denitrification or volatilization isotope enrichments have affected the observed ?? 15N signatures in the soil. However, the observed soil-nitrogen values are not of sufficient magnitude to explain the nitrate-N concentrations or associated ??15N values observed in the ground water. Stable carbon isotopes provide some supporting evidence that soils are not a major contributor to the observed nitrate-N concentration in the ground water. ?? 13C values of the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in soils generally become more enriched with depth while corresponding ground-water ??13C (DOC) values are more depleted than in the overlying soils. Carbon isotope values of the soils are indicative of a C4 plant source that is enriched by microbial processes. The ??13C (DOC) of ground water indicates C3 values that may reflect impacts from animal-waste sources.
Additional Publication Details
Preliminary identification of ground-water nitrate sources using nitrogen and carbon stable isotopes, Kansas