Using 15N, 18O, and 17O to Determine Nitrate Sources and Removal Processes from Groundwater, Tucson, Arizona
AuthorDejwakh, Navid Rene
Committee ChairMeixner, Thomas
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractNitrate is a common groundwater contaminant. Due to adverse health effects, waters above the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 10 mg NO3-N/L or 0.71 mmols/L, are banned from domestic consumption by the EPA. Studies have measured elevated nitrate concentrations in arid land soils and groundwater around the world. These elevated concentrations could be detrimental to the environment and to human health. Thus, it is important to consider the different sources and processes affecting nitrate concentrations Here, a novel triple isotope system approach was employed, coupling Î´17O with Î´18O and Î´15N of nitrate to determine the sources (atmospheric, terrestrial, fertilizer, wastewater) and removal processes influencing nitrate concentrations in the Tucson basin groundwater system. Results show low groundwater nitrate concentrations (0.2 mmols/L) where wastewater was not a predominant source of water, versus high concentrations (1 mmols/L) above the MCL in groundwaters where wastewater was the dominant water source. Furthermore, groundwater up to 1.6 Km away from the wastewater stream was contaminated with effluent recharge waters. In addition, denitrification was inferred from Î´18O and Î´15N data with this inference reinforced by Î´17O data and Î´15N enrichments up to 26. Finally, low atmospheric nitrate was measured in groundwater, representing up to 6% of total nitrate. The triple isotope approach studied here is ideal for determining the proportion of atmospheric nitrate versus other terrestrial nitrate sources and the significance of nitrate removal processes.