New awareness of the potential danger to water supplies posed by the use of agricultural chemicals has focused attention on the nature of groundwater recharge and the mobility of various solutes, especially nitrate and pesticides, in shallow systems. A better understanding of hydrologic flowpaths and solute sources is required to determine the potential impact of sources of contamination on water supplies, to develop management practices for preserving water quality, and to develop remediation plans for sites that are already contaminated. In many cases, environmental isotopes can be employed as 'surgical tools' for answering very specific questions about water and solute sources. Isotopic data can often provide more accurate information about the system than hydrologic measurements or complicated hydrologic models. This note focuses on practical and cost-effective examples of how naturally-occurring isotopes can be used to track water and solutes as they move through shallow systems.