Relation of land use to nitrogen concentration in ground water in the Patuxent River basin, Maryland

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4170




A decrease in nitrogen inputs could improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. In order to provide information about nitrogen transport to the bay, the U.S. Geological Survey examined historical land use associated with nonpoint sources of nitrogen and nitrogen concentrations in ground water in the Patuxent River Basin, Maryland; The Patuxent River is a major tributary to the bay. Most nitrogen in ground water was present as nitrate. In the Piedmont Physiographic Province part of the Patuxent River basin, nitrate concentrations in ground water were higher in agricultural areas than in forested and urban areas. Nitrate concentrations were related to land use at well sites because wells yielded water that infiltrated within the same contributing area where the wells are located. Agricultural activities possibly were a source for the transport of large amounts of nitrogen to ground water and probably also to base flow in nearby streams. The high nitrate concentrations were not attributed to sampling bias. In the Coastal Plain Physiographic Province, most nitrate concentrations were low and were unrelated to land use at the well site because the wells were screened in deep, regional aquifers. Ground water in a few shallow wells had high nitrate concentrations, possibly related to nearby agricultural and urban land use. Increased nitrate concentrations in shallow ground water could increase concentrations in stream base flow and eventually could increase concentrations in regional aquifers and ground water that discharges directly to the Chesapeake Bay.

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Relation of land use to nitrogen concentration in ground water in the Patuxent River basin, Maryland
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Geological Survey ; USGS Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],
iv, 20 p. :ill., map ;28 cm.