Nitrogen Isotope Ratios of Synthetic and Organic Sources of Nitrate Water Contamination in Spain

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This work aims to identify the sources of nitrogencontamination in nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZs) of Spain by means of the nitrogen isotope method. Three categories of nitrogen sources (synthetic fertilisers, animal wastes, and sludges and effluents from waste-water treatment plants) from three NVZs were analysed for their nitrogen isotopic composition (δ15N) in order to assess the applicability of the method to the identification of these N sources. The mean δ15N values were: +1.48‰ for synthetic fertilisers, +15.98‰ for animal wastes and +11.52‰ for sludges and effluents. The synthetic fertiliser sources were significantly different from the organic sources and so, the method can be used for their identification. The highest variability was found within the animal waste category. The range of values found for the different kinds of animal wastes (+5.86 to +36.74) was very wide and overlappedthe range found for sludges and effluents from waste-water treatmentplants (+4.57 to +20.18). Accordingly, these two nitrogen sources areisotopically indistinguishable.

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Curt, M.D., Aguado, P., Sánchez, G. et al. Nitrogen Isotope Ratios of Synthetic and Organic Sources of Nitrate Water Contamination in Spain. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution 151, 135–142 (2004) doi:10.1023/B:WATE.0000009889.36833.c0

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  • fertiliser
  • nitrogen
  • organic wastes
  • stable isotopes
  • water contamination