Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 69, Issue 8, pp 2609–2621 | Cite as

Assessment of regional change in nitrate concentrations in groundwater in the Central Valley, California, USA, 1950s–2000s

  • Karen R. Burow
  • Bryant C. Jurgens
  • Kenneth Belitz
  • Neil M. Dubrovsky
Original Article

Abstract

A regional assessment of multi-decadal changes in nitrate concentrations was done using historical data and a spatially stratified non-biased approach. Data were stratified into physiographic subregions on the basis of geomorphology and soils data to represent zones of historical recharge and discharge patterns in the basin. Data were also stratified by depth to represent a shallow zone generally representing domestic drinking-water supplies and a deep zone generally representing public drinking-water supplies. These stratifications were designed to characterize the regional extent of groundwater with common redox and age characteristics, two factors expected to influence changes in nitrate concentrations over time. Overall, increasing trends in nitrate concentrations and the proportion of nitrate concentrations above 5 mg/L were observed in the east fans subregion of the Central Valley. Whereas the west fans subregion has elevated nitrate concentrations, temporal trends were not detected, likely due to the heterogeneous nature of the water quality in this area and geologic sources of nitrate, combined with sparse and uneven data coverage. Generally low nitrate concentrations in the basin subregion are consistent with reduced geochemical conditions resulting from low permeability soils and higher organic content, reflecting the distal portions of alluvial fans and historical groundwater discharge areas. Very small increases in the shallow aquifer in the basin subregion may reflect downgradient movement of high nitrate groundwater from adjacent areas or overlying intensive agricultural inputs. Because of the general lack of regionally extensive long-term monitoring networks, the results from this study highlight the importance of placing studies of trends in water quality into regional context. Earlier work concluded that nitrate concentrations were steadily increasing over time in the eastern San Joaquin Valley, but clearly those trends do not apply to other physiographic subregions within the Central Valley, even where land use and climate are similar.

Keywords

Nitrate Groundwater Regional land use management Water quality trends Central Valley 

Supplementary material

12665_2012_2082_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1584 kb)

References

  1. Anning DW, Paul AP, McKinney TS, Huntington JM, Bexfield LM, Thiros SA (2012) Predicted nitrate and arsenic concentrations in basin-fill aquifers of the southwestern United States. USGS Sci Investig Rep 2012-5065. http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2012/5065/
  2. Belitz K, Dubrovsky NM, Burow K, Jurgens B, Johnson T (2003) Framework for a ground-water quality monitoring and assessment program for California. USGS Water Resour Investig 03-4166. http://pubs.usgs.gov/wri/wri034166/
  3. Belitz K, Jurgens B, Landon MK, Fram MS, Johnson T (2010) Estimation of aquifer scale proportion using equal area grids: assessment of regional scale groundwater quality. Water Resour Res 46 W11550. doi:10.1029/2010WR009321
  4. Bennett GL, Fram MS, Belitz K, Jurgens BC (2010) Status and understanding of groundwater quality in the northern San Joaquin Basin, 2005: California GAMA priority basin project. USGS Sci Investig Rep 2010-5175. http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5175/
  5. Bennett GL, Fram MS, Belitz K (2011) Status of groundwater quality in the southern, middle, and northern Sacramento Valley study units, 2005–08: California GAMA priority basin project. USGS Sci Investig Rep 2011-5002. http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2011/5002/
  6. Bertoldi GL, Johnston RH, Evenson KD (1991) Ground water in the Central Valley, California—a summary report. USGS Prof Pap 1401-A. http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1401a/
  7. Böhlke JK (2002) Groundwater recharge and agricultural contamination. Hydrogeol J 10:153–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Broers HP, van der Grift B (2004) Regional monitoring of temporal changes in groundwater quality. J Hydrol 296:192–220. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2004.03.022 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Browne BA, Kraft GJ, Bowling JM, DeVita WM, Mechenich DJ (2008) Collateral geochemical impacts of agricultural nitrogen enrichment from 1963 to 1985: a southern Wisconsin ground water depth profile. J Environ Qual 37:1456–1467. doi:10.2134/jeq2007.0070 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burow KR, Shelton JL, Dubrovsky NM (1998) Occurrence of nitrate and pesticides in ground water beneath three agricultural land-use settings in the eastern San Joaquin Valley, California, 1993–1995. USGS Water Resour Investig 98-4284. http://ca.water.usgs.gov/sanj/pub/usgs/wrir97-4284/wrir97-4284.pdf
  11. Burow KR, Dubrovsky NM, Shelton JL (2007) Temporal trends in concentrations of DBCP and nitrate in ground water in the eastern San Joaquin Valley, California, USA. Hydrogeol J 15:991–1007. doi:10.1007/s10040-006-0148-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burow KR, Jurgens BC, Kauffman LJ, Dalgish BA, Phillips SP, Shelton JL (2008a) Simulations of ground-water flow and particle pathline analysis in the zone of contribution of a public-supply well in Modesto, eastern San Joaquin Valley, California: USGS Sci Investig Rep 2008-5035. http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2008/5035/
  13. Burow KR, Shelton JL, Dubrovsky NM (2008b) Regional nitrate and pesticide trends in ground water in the eastern San Joaquin Valley, California. J Environ Qual 37(5 Suppl):S249–S263. doi:10.2134/jeq2007.0061 Google Scholar
  14. Burton CA, Belitz K (2008) Ground-water quality data in the southeast San Joaquin Valley, 2005–2006—results from the California GAMA program. USGS Data Series 351. http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/351/
  15. California State Water Resources Control Board (2002) Nitrate/nitrite groundwater information sheet, California State Water Resources Control Board, Sacramento, CA. http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/gama/docs/nitrate_oct2002_rev3.pdf. Cited 27 September 2011
  16. Conover WJ (1980) Practical nonparametric statistics, 2nd edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Dubrovsky NM, Burow KR, Clark GM, Gronberg JM, Hamilton PA, Hitt KJ, et al. (2010) The quality of our nation’s water—nutrients in the nation’s streams and groundwater, 1992–2004. USGS Circular 1350. http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/nutrients/pubs/circ1350/
  18. Dyer KL (1965) Interpretation of chloride and nitrate ion distribution patterns in adjacent irrigated and nonirrigated Panoche soils. Soil Sci Am Proc 29:170–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Faunt CC (ed) (2009) Groundwater availability in the Central Valley aquifer, California. USGS Prof Pap 1776. http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1766/
  20. Faunt CC, Belitz K, Hanson RT (2010) Development of a three-dimensional model of sedimentary texture in valley-fill deposits of Central Valley, California, USA. Hydrogeol J 18:625–649. doi:10.1007/s10040-009-0539-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Flipo N, Jeannee N, Poulin M, Even S, Ledoux E (2007) Assessment of nitrate pollution in the Grand Morin aquifers (France): combined use of geostatistics and physically based modeling. Environ Pollut 146:241–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fujii R, Swain WC (1995) Areal distribution of selected trace elements, salinity, and major ions in shallow ground water, Tulare Basin, southern San Joaquin Valley, California. USGS Water Resour Investig 95-4048Google Scholar
  23. Glandon LR, Beck LA (1971) Nutrients from tile drain systems: Water Pollut Control Res Ser 13030ELY5/71-3. US Govt Printing Office, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  24. Great Valley Center (2009) The state of the great Central Valley of California, assessing the region via indicators—the economy, 3rd edn. Great Valley Center, Modesto. http://www.greatvalley.org/artman2/uploads/1/econindicators09_final.pdf. Accessed 15 Sept 2011
  25. Green CT, Puckett LJ, Böhlke JK, Bekins BA, Phillips SP, Kauffman LJ, Denver JM, Johnson HM (2008) Limited occurrence of denitrification in four shallow aquifers in agricultural areas of the United States. J Environ Qual 37:994–1009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hansen B, Thorling L, Dalgaard T, Erlandsen M (2011) Trend reversal of nitrate in Danish groundwater—a reflection of agricultural practices and nitrogen surpluses since 1950. Environ Sci Technol 45:228–234. doi:10.1021/es102334u CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Harter T, Davis H, Mathews MC, Meyer RD (2002) Shallow groundwater quality on dairy farms with irrigated forage crops. J Contam Hydrol 55:287–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Helsel DR, Frans LM (2006) Regional Kendall test for trend. Environ Sci Technol 40(13):4066–4073CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Holloway JM, Smith RL (2005) Nitrogen and carbon flow from rock to water: regulation through soil biogeochemical processes, Mokelumne River watershed, California, and Grand Valley, Colorado. J Geophys Res 110 F01010. doi:10.1029/2004JF000124
  30. Hull LC (1984) Geochemistry of ground water in the Sacramento Valley, California. USGS Prof Pap 1401-B. http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1401b/
  31. Jurgens BC, Burow KR, Dalgish BA, Shelton JL (2008) Hydrogeology, water chemistry, and factors affecting the transport of contaminants in the zone of contribution of a public-supply well in Modesto, eastern San Joaquin Valley, California. USGS Sci Investig Rep 2008-5156. http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2008/5156/
  32. Katz BG, Eberts SM, Kauffman LJ (2011) Using Cl/Br ratios and other indicators to assess potential impacts on groundwater quality from septic systems: a review and examples from principal aquifers in the United States. J Hydrol 397:151–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Landon MK, Belitz K, Jurgens BC, Kulongoski JT, Johnson TD (2010) Status and understanding of groundwater quality in the Central-Eastside San Joaquin Basin, 2006: California GAMA priority basin project: USGS Sci Investig Rep 2009-5266. http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2009/5266/
  34. Landon MK, Green CT, Belitz K, Singleton MJ, Esser BK (2011) Relations of hydrogeologic factors, groundwater reduction-oxidation conditions, and temporal and spatial distributions of nitrate, Central-Eastside San Joaquin Valley, California, USA. Hydrogeol J 19:1203–1224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Letey J, Blair JW, Devitt D, Lund LJ, Nash P (1977) Nitrate-nitrogen in effluent from agricultural tile drains in California. Hilgardia 45:289–319Google Scholar
  36. McMahon PB, Chapelle FH (2008) Redox processes and water quality of selected principal aquifer systems. Ground Water 46:259–271. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6584.2007.00385.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McMahon PB, Burow KR, Kauffman LJ, Eberts SM, Böhlke JK, Gurdak JJ (2008) Simulated response of water quality in public supply wells to land use change. Water Resour Res 44 W00A06. doi:10.1029/2007WR006731
  38. Mendenhall WC, Dole RB, Stabler H (1916) Groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley. USGS Water Suppl Pap 398. http://pubs.usgs.gov/wsp/0398
  39. Merz C, Steidl J, Dannowski R (2009) Parameterization and regionalization of redox based denitrification for GIS-embedded nitrate transport modeling in Pleistocene aquifer systems. Environ Geol 58:1587–1599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nightingale HI (1970) Statistical evaluation of salinity and nitrate content and trends beneath urban and agricultural areas—Fresno, California. Ground Water 8(1):22–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Page RW (1986) Geology of the fresh ground-water basin of the Central Valley, California, with texture maps and sections. USGS Prof Pap 1401-C. http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1401c/
  42. Puckett LJ, Tesoriero AJ, Dubrovsky NM (2011) Nitrogen contamination of surficial aquifers—a growing legacy. Environ Sci Technol 45:839–844. doi:10.1021/es1038358 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Scanlon BR, Reedy RC, Bronson KF (2008) Impacts of land use change on nitrogen cycling archived in semiarid unsaturated zone nitrate profiles, southern high plains, Texas. Environ Sci Technol 42(20):7566–7572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schmidt KD, Sherman I (1987) Effect of irrigation on groundwater quality in California. J Irrig Drain Eng 113:16–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Scott JC (1990) Computerized stratified random site-selection approaches for design of a ground-water-quality sampling network. USGS Water Resour Investig Rep 90-4101. http://pubs.usgs.gov/wri/1990/4101/
  46. Shelton JL, Pimentel Isabel, Fram MS, Belitz Kenneth (2008) Ground-water quality data in the Kern County subbasin study unit, 2006—results from the California GAMA program. USGS Data Series 337. http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/337/
  47. Shelton JL, Fram MS, Belitz K (2009) Groundwater-quality data in the Madera-Chowchilla study unit, 2008: results from the California GAMA program. USGS Data Series 455. http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/455/
  48. Spalding RF, Exner ME (1993) Occurrence of nitrate in groundwater—a review. J Environ Qual 22:392–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stigter TY, Dill AC, Ribeiro L (2011) Major issues regarding the efficiency of monitoring programs for nitrate contaminated groundwater. Environ Sci Technol 45:8674–8682. doi:10.1021/es201798g CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Strathouse SM, Sposito G, Sullivan PJ, Lund LJ (1980) Geologic nitrogen: a potential geochemical hazard in the San Joaquin Valley, California. J Environ Qual 9(1):54–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Strebel O, Duynisveld WHM, Böttcher J (1989) Nitrate pollution of groundwater in western Europe. Agric Ecosyst Environ 26:223–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sullivan PJ, Sposito G, Strathouse SM, Hansen CL (1979) Geologic nitrogen and the occurrence of high nitrate soils in the western San Joaquin Valley, California. Hilgardia 47:15–49Google Scholar
  53. Thorburn PJ, Biggs JS, Weier KL, Keating BA (2003) Nitrate in groundwaters of intensive agricultural areas in coastal northeastern Australia. Agric Ecosyst Environ 94:49–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. van der Schans ML, Harter T, Leijnse A, Mathews MC, Meyer RD (2009) Characterizing sources of nitrate leaching from an irrigated dairy farm in Merced County, California. J Contam Hydrol 110:9–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Visser A, Broers HP, Heerdink R, Bierkens MFP (2009a) Trends in pollutant concentrations in relation to time of recharge and reactive transport at the groundwater body scale. J Hydrol 369:427–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Visser A, Dubus I, Broers HP, Brouyère S, Korcz M, Orban P et al (2009b) Comparison of methods for the detection and extrapolation of trends in groundwater quality. J Environ Monit 11:2030–2043. doi:10.1039/b905926a CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vitousek PM, Aber JD, Howarth RW, Likens GE, Matson PA, Schindler DW, Schlesinger WH, Tilman DG (1997) Human alteration of the global nitrogen cycles: sources and consequences. Ecol Appl 7(3):737–750Google Scholar
  58. Walvoord MA, Phillips FM, Stonestrom DA, Evans RD, Hartsough PC, Newman BD, Striegl RG (2003) A reservoir of nitrate beneath desert soils. Nature 302:1021–1024Google Scholar
  59. Wassenaar LI, Hendry MJ, Harrington N (2006) Decadal geochemical and isotopic trends for nitrate in a transboundary aquifer and implications for agricultural beneficial management practices. Environ Sci Technol 40:4626–4632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wendland F, Kunkel R, Grimvall A, Kronvang B, Müller-Wohlfeil DI (2002) The SOIL-N/WEKU model system—a GIS supported tool for the assessment and management of diffuse nitrogen leaching at the scale of river basins. Water Sci Technol 45:285–292Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen R. Burow
    • 1
  • Bryant C. Jurgens
    • 1
  • Kenneth Belitz
    • 2
  • Neil M. Dubrovsky
    • 1
  1. 1.US Geological SurveySacramentoUSA
  2. 2.US Geological SurveySan DiegoUSA

Personalised recommendations