Long-term (1970s–2016) changes in groundwater geochemistry in the High Plains aquifer in south-central Kansas, USA

Changements sur le long terme (1970–2016) de la géochimie des eaux souterraines de l’aquifère des Hautes Plaines au centre-sud du Kansas, Arizona (Etats-Unis d’Amérique)

Cambios a largo plazo (1970–2016) en la geoquímica de las aguas subterráneas en el acuífero High Plains en el centro-sur de Kansas, EEUU

美国堪萨斯中南部高平原含水层的地下水地球化学的长期变化(1970–2016年)

Alterações de longo prazo (1970–2016) na geoquímica das águas subterrâneas no aquífero das Altas Planícies, no centro-sul do Kansas, EUA

Abstract

Changes in groundwater chemistry in the Great Bend Prairie aquifer, a portion of the High Plains aquifer in south-central Kansas (USA), were studied in order to better understand factors influencing groundwater quality and aquifer sustainability. To assess changes, groundwater samples from 22 monitoring wells were analyzed during 2016. Results were then compared to data obtained previously from the same wells in the 1970s and 1980s. Of the wells sampled, 13 wells were screened near the water table (average depth 22 m) and 9 wells were screened near the aquifer base (average depth 41 m). Nitrate levels in 2016 were higher for 20 of 21 wells with data available for comparison. The average increase for shallow-aquifer and aquifer-base samples was 9.5 (standard deviation, SD, 12.9) and 3.4 (SD 3.1) mg/L as N, respectively. Nitrate isotope ratios (δ15N-NO3 and δ18O-NO3) of the 2016 samples are consistent with nitrification of ammonium-based fertilizers as the nitrate source with potential contributions from animal waste. Total dissolved solute levels were also higher in samples from nine of 12 shallow-aquifer wells and four of eight aquifer-base wells, with average increases of 191 (SD 238) and 194 (SD 133) mg/L, respectively. Taken together, the results demonstrate that water quality has decreased considerably over the past 40 years primarily because of fertilizer use, but that groundwater mixing, evapotranspiration, and potentially animal waste inputs also affected groundwater chemistry. These findings help identify the scale of water-quality degradation in the High Plains aquifer.

Résumé

Des changements de chimie des eaux souterraines de l’aquifère de Great Bend Prairie, une portion de l’aquifère des Hautes Plaines au centre-sud du Kansas (Etats-Unis d’Amérique), ont été étudiés pour mieux comprendre les facteurs influençant la qualité des eaux souterraines et la pérennité de l’aquifère. Pour évaluer ces changements, des échantillons d’eau souterraine de 22 forages de suivi ont été analysés en 2016. Les résultats ont été comparés aux données obtenues précédemment pour les mêmes forages dans les années 1970 et 1980. Parmi les forages échantillonnés, 13 captent les niveaux d’eau superficiels (profondeur moyenne de 22 m) et neuf les niveaux proches du mur de l’aquifère (profondeur moyenne de 41 m). Les concentrations en nitrate de 2016 sont plus élevées pour 20 des 21 forages pour lesquels des données sont disponibles. La moyenne d’augmentation des concentrations est, respectivement, pour les aquifères de faible et de grande profondeur de 9.5 (déviation standard, DS, 12.9) et 3.4 (DS 3.1) mg/L de N. Les rapports isotopiques du nitrate (δ15N-NO3 et δ18O-NO3) des échantillons de 2016 sont en accord avec la nitrification des engrais à base d’ammonium comme source de nitrate avec des contributions potentielles provenant des fumiers/lisiers d’origine animale. Les concentrations en éléments totaux dissous sont également plus élevés pour les échantillons de 9 des 12 aquifères peu profonds et 4 des 8 aquifères profonds, avec une moyenne d’augmentation de 191 (DS 238) et 194 (DS 133) mg/L respectivement. En tout, les résultats montrent que la qualité de l’eau s’est considérablement dégradée sur les 40 dernières années du fait principalement de l’utilisation d’engrais. De même le mélange d’eau souterraine, l’évapotranspiration et l’apport potentiel par les déjections animales (fumiers/lisiers) ont également affecté la chimie des eaux souterraines. Ces résultats aident à identifier l’ampleur de la dégradation de la qualité des eaux de l’aquifère des Hautes Plaines.

Resumen

Se estudiaron los cambios en la química del agua subterránea en el acuífero Great Bend Prairie, una porción del acuífero High Plains en el centro-sur de Kansas (EEUU), con el fin de comprender mejor los factores que influyen en la calidad del agua subterránea y la sostenibilidad del acuífero. Para evaluar los cambios, se analizaron muestras de agua subterránea de 22 pozos de monitoreo durante 2016. Luego se compararon los resultados con los datos obtenidos previamente de los mismos pozos en las décadas de 1970 y 1980. De los pozos muestreados, 13 pozos fueron examinados cerca del nivel freático (profundidad promedio 22 m) y nueve pozos fueron examinados cerca de la base del acuífero (profundidad promedio 41 m). Los niveles de nitratos en 2016 fueron mayores en 20 de 21 pozos, con datos disponibles para la comparación. El aumento promedio para las muestras de acuíferos someros y de la base del acuífero fue de 9.5 (desviación estándar, SD, 12.9) y 3.4 (SD 3.1) mg/L como N, respectivamente. Las proporciones de isótopos de nitrato (δ15N-NO3 y δ18O-NO3) de las muestras de 2016 son consistentes con la nitrificación de fertilizantes a base de amonio como fuente de nitratos con contribuciones potenciales de desechos animales. Los niveles totales de soluto disuelto también fueron más altos en muestras de nueve de 12 pozos de acuíferos someros y cuatro de ocho pozos de la base del acuífero, con incrementos promedio de 191 (SD 238) y 194 (SD 133) mg/L, respectivamente. En conjunto, los resultados demuestran que la calidad del agua ha disminuido considerablemente en los últimos 40 años, principalmente debido al uso de fertilizantes, pero que la mezcla de aguas subterráneas, la evapotranspiración y las entradas de desechos de animales también afectaron potencialmente la química del agua subterránea. Estos hallazgos ayudan a identificar la escala de degradación de la calidad del agua en el acuífero de las High Plains.

摘要

为了更好地了解影响地下水质量和含水层可持续性的因素,研究了美国堪萨斯州中南部高平原含水层的Great Bend Prairie含水层中的地下水化学变化。为了评估变化,对2016年22口监测井的地下水样品进行了分析。然后将结果与先前从1970年代和1980年代从同一口井获得的数据进行了比较。在取样的所有井中,在地下水位附近筛查了13口井(平均深度22 m),在含水层底部附近筛查了9口井(平均深度41 m)。在比较的可利用数据中,在2016年 21口井中的20口硝酸盐水平较高。浅层含水层和以含水层为基础的样品的平均增加量分别为9.5(标准差(SD)12.9)和3.4(SD 3.1)mg/L(N)。 2016年样品的硝酸盐同位素比(δ15N-NO3和δ18O-NO3)与作为硝酸盐源的铵基肥料的硝化作用相一致,这可能来自动物粪便。 12个浅层含水井中的9个井和8个含水层基井中的4个井中的样品中矿化度值也较高,分别平均增加191(SD 238)和194(SD 133)mg/L。综合两者的结果表明,过去40年地下水水质已显著下降,主要原因是使用肥料,但是地下水的混合,蒸散和潜在的动物废物输入也影响了地下水的化学性质。这些发现有助于确定高平原含水层中水质退化的程度。

Resumo

Alterações na química das águas subterrâneas no aquífero Great Bend Prairie, uma parte do aquífero das Altas Planícies no centro-sul do Kansas (EUA), foram estudadas para entender melhor os fatores que influenciam a qualidade das águas subterrâneas e a sustentabilidade dos aquíferos. Para avaliar as mudanças, amostras de águas subterrâneas de 22 poços de monitoramento foram analisadas no ano de 2016. Os resultados foram comparados com dados obtidos anteriormente nos mesmos poços, nas décadas de 1970 e 1980. Dos poços amostrados, 13 poços foram examinados perto do lençol freático (profundidade média de 22 m) e 9 poços foram examinados perto da base do aquífero (profundidade média de 41 m). Os níveis de nitrato em 2016 foram maiores em 20 dos 21 poços com dados disponíveis para comparação. O aumento médio das amostras de aquífero raso e de base foi de 9.5 (desvio padrão, DP, 12.9) e 3.4 (DP 3.1) mg/L como N, respectivamente. As razões isotópicas de nitrato (δ15N-NO3 e δ18O-NO3) das amostras de 2016 são consistentes com a nitrificação de fertilizantes à base de amônio, como fonte de nitrato com potenciais contribuições de resíduos de animais. Os níveis totais de soluto dissolvido também foram maiores nas amostras de nove de 12 poços de aquíferos rasos e quatro de oito poços de base de aquíferos, com aumentos médios de 191 (DP 238) e 194 (DP 133) mg/L, respectivamente. Tomados em conjunto, os resultados demonstram que a qualidade da água diminuiu consideravelmente nos últimos 40 anos, principalmente devido ao uso de fertilizantes, mas que a mistura de águas subterrâneas, a evapotranspiração e as entradas potenciais de resíduos animais também afetaram a química das águas subterrâneas. Essas descobertas ajudam a identificar a escala de degradação da qualidade da água no aquífero das Altas Planícies.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Adam Lane, Ben Haller, Janet Paper, and Bruce Lindsey for assistance with this project and Ganga Hettiarachchi and Pamela Kempton for helpful discussions. They are also grateful for constructive feedback from Leslie Harker and two anonymous peer reviewers. Support for this study was provided by a graduate student research grant from the Geological Society of America, the Kansas State University Department of Geology, and the US National Science Foundation (Award No. 1656006).

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Lane, A.D., Kirk, M.F., Whittemore, D.O. et al. Long-term (1970s–2016) changes in groundwater geochemistry in the High Plains aquifer in south-central Kansas, USA. Hydrogeol J 28, 491–501 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10040-019-02083-z

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Keywords

  • Groundwater quality
  • Nitrate
  • Contamination
  • Agriculture
  • USA