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Keywords:

  • nitrogen;
  • nitrate;
  • long-term monitoring;
  • land use;
  • stable isotopes;
  • nonpoint source pollution;
  • karst;
  • Upper Floridan aquifer

Allums, Stephanie E., Stephen P. Opsahl, Stephen W. Golladay, David W. Hicks, and L. Mike Conner, 2012. Nitrate Concentrations in Springs Flowing Into the Lower Flint River Basin, Georgia U.S.A. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 48(3): 423-438. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00624.x

Abstract:  Analysis of long-term data from (2001-2009) in four springs that discharge from the Upper Floridan aquifer into the Flint River (southwestern Georgia, United States) indicate aquifer and surface-water susceptibility to nutrient loading. Nitrate-N concentrations ranged from 1.74 to 3.30 mg/l, and exceeded historical levels reported for the Upper Floridan aquifer (0.26-1.52 mg/l). Statistical analyses suggest increasing nitrate-N concentration in groundwater discharging at the springs (= 146 over eight years) and that nitrate-N concentration is influenced by a dynamic interaction between depth to groundwater (an indicator of regional hydrologic conditions) and land use. A one-time synoptic survey of 10 springs (6 springs in addition to the 4 previously mentioned) using stable isotopes generated δ15N-NO3 values (4.8-8.4‰ for rural springs and 7.7-13.4‰ for developed/urban springs) suggesting mixed sources (i.e., fertilizer, animal waste, and soil organic nitrogen) of nitrate-N to rural springs and predominantly animal/human waste to urban springs. These analyses indicate a direct relation between nitrate-N loading since the 1940s and intensification of agricultural and urban land use. This study demonstrates the importance of evaluating long-term impacts of land use on water quality in groundwater springs and in determining how rapidly these changes occur.