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Nitrate in ground water and spring water near four dairy farms in North Florida, 1990-93

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4162

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Abstract

Concentrations of nitrate and other selected water- quality characteristics were analyzed periodically for two years in water from 51 monitoring wells installed at four farms and in water discharging from three nearby springs along the Suwannee River in Lafayette and Suwannee Counties to examine the quality of ground water at these farms and the transport of nutrients in ground water to the nearby spring-fed Suwannee River: Ground water from shallow wells, which were completed in the top ten feet of the saturated zone in a surficial sandy aquifer and in the karstic Upper Floridan aquifer generally had the highest concentrations of nitrate, ranging from <.02 to 130 mg/L as nitrogen. Nitrate concentrations commonly exceeded the primary drinking water standard of 10 mg/L for nitrate as nitrogen in water from shallow wells, which tapped the top ten feet of the uppermost aquifers near waste-disposal areas such as wastewater lagoons and defoliated, intensive-use areas near milking barns. Upgradient from waste-disposal areas, concentrations of nitrate in ground water were commonly less than 1 mg/L as nitrogen. Water samples from deep wells (screened 20 feet deeper than shallow wells in these aquifers) generally had lower concentrations of nitrate (ranging from <0.02 to 84 mg/L) than water from shallow wells. Water samples from the three monitored springs (Blue, Telford, and Convict Springs) had nitrate concentrations ranging from 1.5 to 6.5 mg/L as nitrogen, which were higher than those typically occurring in water from upgradient wells at the monitored dairy farms or from back- ground wells sampled in the region. Analyses of nitrogen isotope ratios in nitrate indicated that leachate from animal wastes was the principal source of nitrate in ground water adjacent to waste-disposal areas at the monitored and unmonitored dairy farms. Leachate from a combi- nation of fertilizers, soils, and animal wastes appeared to be the source of nitrate in ground- water downgradient from pastures and wastewater spray fields at dairy farms and in water discharging from three nearby springs. Although denitrifying bacteria were present in counts sometimes exceeding 240,000 colonies/100mL in water from dairy-farm monitoring wells, ground water in the uppermost aquifers in Lafayette and Suwannee Counties generally contained too much oxygen for denitrification to remove nitrate from shallow ground water. Denitrification was more likely to occur in deeper ground water, which typically has lower dissolved oxygen concentrations.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Nitrate in ground water and spring water near four dairy farms in North Florida, 1990-93
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
94-4162
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1994
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey ; U.S.G.S. Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],
Description:
vi, 63 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.