Implications of on-ground nitrogen loading and soil transformations on ground water quality management
This paper presents a modeling approach based on a geographic information system (GIS) to estimate the variability of on-ground nitrogen loading and the corresponding nitrate leaching to ground water. The methodology integrates all point and nonpoint sources of nitrogen, the national land cover database, soil nitrogen transformations, and the uncertainty of key soil and land use-related parameters to predict the nitrate mass leaching to ground water. The analysis considered 21 different land use classes with information derived from nitrogen sources such as fertilizer and dairy manure applications, dairy lagoons, septic systems, and dry and wet depositions. Simulations were performed at a temporal resolution of one month to capture seasonal trends. The model was applied to a large aquifer of 376 square miles in Washington State that serves more than 100,000 residents with drinking water. The results showed that dairy manure is the main source of nitrogen in the area followed by fertilizers. It was also seen that nitrate leaching is controlled by the recharge rate, and there can be a substantial buildup of soil nitrogen over long periods of time. Uncertainty analysis showed that denitrification rate is the most influential parameter on nitrate leaching. The results showed that combining management alternatives is a successful strategy, especially with the use of nitrification inhibitors. Also, change in the land use pattern has a noticeable impact on nitrate leaching.