Environmental Earth Sciences

, 75:240 | Cite as

Nitrate contamination of groundwater in the western Po Plain (Italy): the effects of groundwater and surface water interactions

  • Manuela LasagnaEmail author
  • Domenico Antonio De Luca
  • Elisa Franchino
Original Article


This study aims to investigate the physical and chemical effects of interactions between groundwater and surface water (GW–SW)—particularly in streams—on nitrate contamination. The effects of GW–SW interactions are briefly reviewed, with a particular emphasis on processes and environments that influence increases or decreases in nitrate concentration. Then, this paper analyses nitrate concentrations in groundwater and surface water in the western Po plain (Northwestern Italy); this analysis includes the nitrate concentration profiles across the shallow aquifer and intersecting the main streams on the plain. The investigation highlights how the concentration trends are similar, even when nitrate levels in rivers and groundwater are not comparable. The maximum nitrate concentrations in the surface water were generally measured in areas with high-nitrate levels in groundwater. An analysis of the nitrate concentration profiles highlighted the mutual influences of GW–SW. The most important streams on the plain (the Po River and Stura di Demonte River), both of them gaining streams, seem to reduce the nitrate concentrations of groundwater at a study scale. The proposed conceptual model indicates how the near-stream environment (the riparian zone, wetlands, hyporheic zone and shallow organic-rich soils in the near-stream environment) and the groundwater flow systems in shallow and deep aquifers, from the recharge zone to the streams, could dramatically affect the nitrate concentrations.


GW–SW interactions Nitrates Losing and gaining streams Denitrification Hyporheic zone Riparian zone Po River 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuela Lasagna
    • 1
    Email author
  • Domenico Antonio De Luca
    • 1
  • Elisa Franchino
    • 1
  1. 1.Earth Science DepartmentTurin UniversityTurinItaly

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