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Limited occurrence of denitrification in four shallow aquifers in agricultural areas of the United States

Journal of Environmental Quality

By:
, , , , , , , and
DOI: 10.2134/jeq2006.0419

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Abstract

The ability of natural attenuation to mitigate agricultural nitrate contamination in recharging aquifers was investigated in four important agricultural settings in the United States. The study used laboratory analyses, field measurements, and flow and transport modeling for monitoring well transects (0.5 to 2.5 km in length) in the San Joaquin watershed, California, the Elkhorn watershed, Nebraska, the Yakima watershed, Washington, and the Chester watershed, Maryland. Ground water analyses included major ion chemistry, dissolved gases, nitrogen and oxygen stable isotopes, and estimates of recharge date. Sediment analyses included potential electron donors and stable nitrogen and carbon isotopes. Within each site and among aquifer-based medians, dissolved oxygen decreases with ground water age, and excess N2 from denitrification increases with age. Stable isotopes and excess N2 imply minimal denitrifying activity at the Maryland and Washington sites, partial denitrification at the California site, and total denitrification across portions of the Nebraska site. At all sites, recharging electron donor concentrations are not sufficient to account for the losses of dissolved oxygen and nitrate, implying that relict, solid phase electron donors drive redox reactions. Zero-order rates of denitrification range from 0 to 0.14 ??mol N L-1d-1, comparable to observations of other studies using the same methods. Many values reported in the literature are, however, orders of magnitude higher, which is attributed to a combination of method limitations and bias for selection of sites with rapid denitrification. In the shallow aquifers below these agricultural fields, denitrification is limited in extent and will require residence times of decades or longer to mitigate modern nitrate contamination. Copyright ?? 2008 by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. All rights reserved.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Limited occurrence of denitrification in four shallow aquifers in agricultural areas of the United States
Series title:
Journal of Environmental Quality
DOI:
10.2134/jeq2006.0419
Volume
37
Issue:
3
Year Published:
2008
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Journal of Environmental Quality
First page:
994
Last page:
1009
Number of Pages:
16