Sustainability of natural attenuation of nitrate in agricultural aquifers

Fact Sheet 2010-3077
National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program
By:  and 



Increased concentrations of nitrate in groundwater in agricultural areas, coinciding with increased use of chemical and organic fertilizers, have raised concern because of risks to environmental and human health. At some sites, these problems are mitigated by natural attenuation of nitrate as a result of microbially mediated reactions. Results from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research under the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program show that reactions of dissolved nitrate with solid aquifer minerals and organic carbon help lower nitrate concentrations in groundwater beneath agricultural fields. However, increased fluxes of nitrate cause ongoing depletion of the finite pool of solid reactants. Consumption of the solid reactants diminishes the capacity of the aquifer to remove nitrate, calling into question the long-term sustainability of these natural attenuation processes.
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Sustainability of natural attenuation of nitrate in agricultural aquifers
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 2010-3077
DOI 10.3133/fs20103077
Edition -
Year Published 2010
Language ENGLISH
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) National Water Quality Assessment Program
Description 4 p.
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details