Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 67, Issue 5, pp 1531–1545 | Cite as

Distribution of nitrate in groundwater affected by the presence of an aquitard at an agricultural area in Chiba, Japan

  • Tatsuhiro Nishikiori
  • Takejiro Takamatsu
  • Ayato Kohzu
  • Yasuhiro Nakajima
  • Mirai WatanabeEmail author
Original Article


Geological and geographical parameters including land use, stratigraphic structure, groundwater quality, and N- and O-isotopic compositions of nitrate in groundwater were investigated to elucidate the mechanism of groundwater pollution by NO3 in the agricultural area of Katori, Chiba, Japan. An aquitard distributed in the western part of the study area has produced two unconfined aquifers. The average concentrations of NO3 and dissolved oxygen (DO) were high in the aquifer above the aquitard (7.5 and 7.6 mg/L, respectively) and in the aquifer of the eastern part of the study area that was not influenced by the aquitard (11.9 and 7.8 mg/L, respectively); however, the levels in the aquifer under the aquitard were relatively low (2.2 and 3.7 mg/L, respectively). The δ15N and δ18O values of NO3 generally increased exponentially in the groundwater that flowed into the aquifer under the aquitard as the concentration of NO3 decreased, although this decrease in NO3 also occasionally occurred without isotopic changes. These results indicated that the aquitard prevented the penetration of NO3 , DO, and gaseous O2. Under the aquitard, denitrification and dilution with unpolluted water that entered from natural forested areas reduced the NO3 concentrations in the groundwater. The major sources of NO3 in groundwater in the study area were estimated to be NH4-chemical fertilizer, livestock waste, and manure.


Groundwater Nitrate Aquitard δ15δ18Denitrification 



The authors are grateful to Professor Emeritus Hisashi Nirei of Ibaraki University for providing proper guidance and support throughout this work, and to Takatsugu Obara for providing well structure data, helpful advice and assistance with field work. The authors also thank the Katori City Government for supplying well structure data and help in obtaining permission from private well owners to survey their wells. Finally, the authors thank Takashi Kusuda, Shigeru Oketani, Toshikatsu Takeshima, Shun Kameyama, Taro Fuse, Kunika Soma, Kazuya Kimura, Hayato Ishikawa, and Daichi Morita for their assistance with the instrumental analysis and field work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tatsuhiro Nishikiori
    • 1
  • Takejiro Takamatsu
    • 2
  • Ayato Kohzu
    • 3
  • Yasuhiro Nakajima
    • 4
  • Mirai Watanabe
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Graduate School of Science and EngineeringIbaraki UniversityIbarakiJapan
  2. 2.Center for Water Environment StudiesIbaraki UniversityIbarakiJapan
  3. 3.Center for Regional Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental StudiesIbarakiJapan
  4. 4.National Institute for Agro-Environmental SciencesIbarakiJapan

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