, Volume 96, Issue 1–3, pp 119–129 | Cite as

Dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen in urban and rural watersheds of south-central Texas: land use and land management influences

  • J. A. Aitkenhead-Peterson
  • M. K. Steele
  • N. Nahar
  • K. Santhy


Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (DON) concentrations were quantified in urban and rural watersheds located in central Texas, USA between 2007 and 2008. The proportion of urban land use ranged from 6 to 100% in our 12 study watersheds which included nine watersheds without waste water treatment plants (WWTP) and three watersheds sampled downstream of a WWTP. Annual mean DOC concentrations ranged 20.4–52.5 mg L−1. Annual mean DON concentrations ranged 0.6–1.9 mg L−1. Only the rural watersheds without a WWTP had significantly lower DOC concentrations compared to those watersheds with a WWTP but all the streams except two had significantly reduced DON compared to those with a WWTP. Analysis of the nine watersheds without a WWTP indicated that 68% of the variability in mean annual DOC concentration was explained by urban open areas such as golf courses, sports fields and neighborhood parks under turf grass. There was no relationship between annual mean DON concentration and any land use. Urban open area also explained a significant amount of the variance in stream sodium and stream sodium adsorption ratio (SAR). Ninety-four percent of the variance in annual mean DOC concentration was explained by SAR. Irrigation of urban turf grass with domestic tap water high in sodium (>181 mg Na+ L−1) may be inducing sodic soil conditions in watershed soils in this region resulting in elevated mean annual DOC concentrations in our streams.


DOC DON Land-use Sodium Streams Urban 



This work was supported by Texas AgriLife Research. We thank Cara Harclerode and Nina Stanley for help with chemical analysis and fieldwork and the two anonymous reviewers whose advice significantly improved this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Aitkenhead-Peterson
    • 1
  • M. K. Steele
    • 1
  • N. Nahar
    • 2
  • K. Santhy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Soil and Crop SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural and Biosystems EngineeringNorth Dakota State UniversityFargoUSA

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