Historical data on nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from about 12,000 ground-water and more than 22,000 stream samples have been compiled and related to possible sources. This existing information was collected by many agencies for a variety of purposes. Therefore, though it can be used to determine where concentrations differ, the exact percentages should not be taken as those for the Nation as a whole. Major findings include: (1) nutrient concentrations in water generally are related to land use in the area overlying ground-water aquifers or upstream from surface-water locations, (2) regional differences are related to differences in soil-drainage properties and agricultural practices, (3) nitrate concentrations in about 12 percent of domestic-supply wells in agricultural areas exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's drinking-water standard (10 mg/L), and (4) nitrate concentrations in surface water rarely exceed the drinking-water standard. This information has helped identify locations across the Nation where ground water and streams are most likely to be vulnerable to nutrient contamination. Programs to manage and protect water resources can therefore be targeted to the most critical areas, providing the greatest protection for the least cost.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Nutrients in the Nation's Waters--Too Much of a Good Thing?