The lower South Platte River basin of Colorado and Nebraska is an area of intense agriculture supported by surface-water diversions from the river and ground-water pumping from a valley-fill alluvial aquifer. Two well networks consisting of 45 wells installed in the South Platte alluvial aquifer were sampled in the early 1990s and again in the early 2000s to examine near-decadal ground-water quality changes in irrigated agricultural areas. Ground-water age generally increases and dissolved-oxygen content decreases with distance along flow paths and with depdi below the water table, and denitrification is an important natural mitigation mechanism for nitrate in downgradient areas. Ground-water travel time from upland areas to the river ranges from 12 to 31 yr on the basis of apparent ground-water ages. Ground-water nitrate concentrations for agricultural land-use wells increased significantly for oxidized samples over the decade, and nitrogen isotope ratios for oxidized samples indicate synthetic fertilizer as the predominant nitrate source. Ground-water concentrations of atrazine, DEA, and prometon decreased significandy. The decrease in pesticide concentrations and a significant increase in the ratio of DEA to atrazine suggest decreases in pesticide concentrations are likely caused by local decreases in application rates and/or degradation processes and that atrazine degradation is promoted by oxidizing conditions. The difference between results for oxidizing and nitrate-reducing conditions indicates redox state is an important variable to consider when evaluating ground-water quality trends for redox-sensitive constituents such as nitrate and pesticides in the South Platte alluvial aquifer. Copyright ?? 2008 by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. All rights reserved.
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Near-decadal changes in nitrate and pesticide concentrations in the South Platte River alluvial aquifer, 1993-2004