Nitrate contamination in a shallow urban aquifer in East Ukraine: evidence from hydrochemical, stable isotopes of nitrate and land use analysis

  • Y. Vystavna
  • D. Diadin
  • V. Yakovlev
  • J. Hejzlar
  • I. Vadillo
  • F. Huneau
  • M. F. Lehmann
Original Article


A combined hydrochemical and stable isotope approach was used to investigate the origin of nitrate in the shallow unconfined groundwater of Kharkiv city, Eastern Ukraine. The contamination was investigated in the context of land use within the catchment area. The observed enrichment of sulfate, chloride and nitrate suggests significant groundwater contamination in the shallow urban aquifer, which is widely used as drinking water source for the urban population. Characteristic nitrate/chloride ratios as well as stable isotope ratios (N and O) of nitrate in the most contaminated springs confirmed that septic waste from leaky sewer systems was the main source of nitrate contamination in the groundwater. Nitrate contamination is linked to the type of land use and sewage treatment regime in the catchment area. It is also modulated by the regional hydrogeology, which determines the susceptibility of a given aquifer toward groundwater pollution. A more quantitative assessment of nitrate sources based on the nitrate isotope analysis alone is rather difficult. However, our study confirms that the combination of hydrochemical tracers, robust land-use analysis and nitrate stable isotope measurements represents a valuable approach to identify the origin of the nitrate contamination.


Urban groundwater Nitrate Stable isotopes Land use Sewage 



This research has been carried out within the framework of the Research Project CRP F33020 “Environmental isotopes methods to assess water quality issues in rivers impacted by groundwater discharges” and CRP F33021 “Evaluation of human impacts on water balance and nutrients dynamics in the trans-boundary Russia/Ukraine river basin” funded partly by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the O.M. Beketov National University of Urban Economy in Kharkiv.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Y. Vystavna
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. Diadin
    • 2
  • V. Yakovlev
    • 3
  • J. Hejzlar
    • 1
  • I. Vadillo
    • 4
  • F. Huneau
    • 5
    • 6
  • M. F. Lehmann
    • 7
  1. 1.Biology Centre CASInstitute of HydrobiologyCeske BudejoviceCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Engineering and ManagementO.M. Beketov National University of Urban Economy in KharkivKharkivUkraine
  3. 3.Water Quality Laboratory “PLAYA”KharkivUkraine
  4. 4.Group of Hydrogeology, Department of Geology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of MalagaMalagaSpain
  5. 5.Laboratoire d’HydrogéologieUniversité de Corse Pascal PaoliCorteFrance
  6. 6.CNRSUMR 6134 SPECorteFrance
  7. 7.Department of Environmental Sciences, Biogeochemistry GroupUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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