Temporal-Spatial Evolution of Groundwater Nitrogen Pollution Over Seven Years in a Highly Urbanized City in the Southern China

  • Xiaorui He
  • Jiazhong QianEmail author
  • Zufa Liu
  • Yuehan Lu
  • Lei Ma
  • Weidong Zhao
  • Bo Kang


Understanding the temporospatial variation in nitrogen pollution in groundwater and the associated controlling factors is important to establish management practices that ensure sustainable use of groundwater. In this study, we analyzed inorganic nitrogen content (nitrate, nitrite, and ammonium) in 1164 groundwater samples from shallow, middle-deep, and deep aquifers in Zhanjiang, a highly urbanized city in the southern China. Our data span a range of 7 years from 2005 to 2011. Results show that shallow aquifers had been heavily contaminated by nitrate and ammonium. Temporal patterns show that N contamination levels remained high and relatively stable over time in urban areas. This stability and high concentration is hypothesized as a result of uncontrolled, illicit sewer discharges from nearby business facilities. Groundwater in urban land and farmland displays systematic differences in geochemical characteristics. Collectively, our findings demonstrate the importance of continuously monitoring groundwater quality and strictly regulating sewage discharges in Zhanjiang.


Nitrogen pollution Temporo-spatial variation Groundwater Nitrate Nitrite Ammonium Zhanjiang 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41372245, 41602256, 41641021) and the China Scholarship Council (201706690050). Lu acknowledges the support of the Alabama Water Resource Research Institute Grant and NSF EAR 1255724.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaorui He
    • 1
  • Jiazhong Qian
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zufa Liu
    • 2
  • Yuehan Lu
    • 3
  • Lei Ma
    • 1
  • Weidong Zhao
    • 1
  • Bo Kang
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Resources and Environmental EngineeringHefei University of TechnologyHefeiChina
  2. 2.Center of Water Resources and EnvironmentSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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