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Characterization of the hydrogeology and water quality at the Management Systems Evaluation Area near Princeton, Minnesota, 1991-92

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4149

Prepared in cooperation with the University of Minnesota Department of Soil Science, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
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Abstract

The Management Systems Evaluation Area (MSEA) program is part of a multi-scale, inter-agency initiative to evaluate the effects of agricultural management systems on water quality in the midwest corn belt. The Minnesota MSEA project is one of five projects selected to represent the principal hydrogeologic settings and geographic diversity of prevailing management systems in the midwest corn belt. The Minnesota MSEA research area is located in the Anoka Sand Plain about 5 kilometers southwest of Princeton, Minnesota. The water-quality monitoring network within the 65-hectare research area consists of 29 observation wells and 22 multiport wells. Thirteen observation wells also are located outside the research area.

Glacial deposits beneath the research area generally consist of fine to medium sand in the unsaturated zone and coarse to very coarse sand and gravel in the saturated zone. The average depth to the water table is about 3.6 meters below land surface. Ground-water recharge during 1992 was lower (4.9-13.2 centimeters) than during 1991 (11.7-25.7 centimeters) because of reduced precipitation (58.5 centimeters during 1992 and 94.5 centimeters during 1991).

Estimates of saturated horizontal hydraulic conductivity for the surficial aquifer were made using five methods. Results were within about two orders of magnitude and also agree favorably with estimates from a previous study of the Anoka Sand Plain. The smallest hydraulic conductivities were obtained using laboratory analyses (0.0052 centimeters per second) and the largest estimate was obtained from results of an aquifer test (0.2820 centimeters per second). The estimate of hydraulic conductivity based on the time of travel of chloride (0.0655 centimeters per second) is considered most accurate and representative of the surficial aquifer in the research area.

 

Anthropogenic effects of previous land use were detected in water samples collected during April 1991, prior to implementation of the MSEA farming systems. Concentrations of nitrate-nitrogen (nitrate-N) in the surficial aquifer equaled or exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recommended maximum contaminant level of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) in 4 of the 7 wells in the research area. The maximum concentration of nitrate-N in ground water from these wells was 23 mg/L with a median of 10 mg/L. The median concentration of nitrate-N for these wells exceeded the median in wells located upgradient from the research area (2.1 mg/L). Similarly, the median concentration of chloride from wells in the research area (11 mg/L) exceeded the median in upgradient wells (3.8 mg/L). On-site sources of the elevated nitrate-N include decomposition of alfalfa, grown on-site during 1981-89, and application of nitrogen fertilizer to corn during 1990. A likely on-site source of the elevated chloride is application of potassium-chloride fertilizer to crops prior to 1991.

Atrazine was detected by gas chromatography mass spectroscopy in 2 of the 7 wells in the research area at concentrations of 0.04 and 0.17 micrograms per liter (ug/L), well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recommended maximum contaminant level of 3 ug/L. The median concentration in these Wells was less than the qualitative detection limit of 0.01 ug/L. Atrazine metabolite de-ethylatrazine was the most frequently detected herbicide or herbicide metabolite. De-ethylatrazine was detected in 5 of the 7 wells in the research area at concentrations ranging from 0.12 to 0.32 ug/L with a median concentration of 0.14 ug/L. Atrazine metabolite de-isopropylatrazine was not detected above the qualitative detection limit of 0.06 ug/L. The most likely sources of atrazine are applications to the research area during 1990 or from precipitation.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Characterization of the hydrogeology and water quality at the Management Systems Evaluation Area near Princeton, Minnesota, 1991-92
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
94-4149
Year Published:
1994
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Mounds View, MN
Contributing office(s):
Minnesota Water Science Center
Description:
vi, 54 p.
Country:
United States
State:
Minnesota
City:
Princton
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N