Agriculture has had direct and indirect effects on the rates and compositions of groundwater recharge and aquifer biogeochemistry. Direct effects include dissolution and transport of excess quantities of fertilizers and associated materials and hydrologic alterations related to irrigation and drainage. Some indirect effects include changes in water-rock reactions in soils and aquifers caused by increased concentrations of dissolved oxidants, protons, and major ions. Agrilcultural activities have directly or indirectly affected the concentrations of a large number of inorganic chemicals in groundwater, for example NO3-, N2, Cl, SO42-, H+, P, C, K, Mg, Ca, Sr, Ba, Ra, and As, as well a wide variety of pesticides and other organic compounds. For reactive contaminants like NO3-, a combination of chemical, isotopic, and environmental-tracer analytical approaches might be required to resolve changing inputs from subsequent alterations as causes of concentration gradients in groundwater. Groundwater records derived from multi-component hydrostratigraphic data can be used to quantify recharge rates and residence times of water and dissolved contaminants, document past variations in recharging contaminant loads, and identify natural contaminant-remediation processes. These data indicate that many of the world's surficial aquifers contain transient records of changing agricultural contamination from the last half of the 20th century. The transient agricultural groundwater signal has important implications for long-term trends and spatial heterogeneity in discharge.
Additional publication details
Groundwater recharge and agricultural contamination