Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 20, pp 20431–20448 | Cite as

The use of multilevel sampling techniques for determining shallow aquifer nitrate profiles

  • Manuela LasagnaEmail author
  • Domenico Antonio De Luca
Research Article


Nitrate is a worldwide pollutant in aquifers. Shallow aquifer nitrate concentrations generally display vertical stratification, with a maximum concentration immediately below the water level. The concentration then gradually decreases with depth. Different techniques can be used to highlight this stratification. The paper aims at comparing the advantages and limitations of three open hole multilevel sampling techniques (packer system, dialysis membrane samplers and bailer), chosen on the base of a literary review, to highlight a nitrate vertical stratification under the assumption of (sub)horizontal flow in the aquifer. The sampling systems were employed at three different times of the year in a shallow aquifer piezometer in northern Italy. The optimal purge time, equilibration time and water volume losses during the time in the piezometer were evaluated. Multilevel techniques highlighted a similar vertical nitrate stratification, present throughout the year. Indeed, nitrate concentrations generally decreased with depth downwards, but with significantly different levels in the sampling campaigns. Moreover, the sampling techniques produced different degrees of accuracy. More specifically, the dialysis membrane samplers provided the most accurate hydrochemical profile of the shallow aquifer and they appear to be necessary when the objective is to detect the discontinuities in the nitrate profile. Bailer and packer system showed the same nitrate profile with little differences of concentration. However, the bailer resulted much more easier to use.


Nitrate pollution Stratification Groundwater Unconfined aquifer Packer Bailer Dialysis membrane sampler 



The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable and constructive comments, which highly contributed to improving the final version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth Science DepartmentTurin UniversityTorinoItaly

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