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A catchment-scale method to simulating the impact of historical nitrate loading from agricultural land on the nitrate-concentration trends in the sandstone aquifers in the Eden Valley, UK

Wang, Lei; Burke, Sean P.. 2017 A catchment-scale method to simulating the impact of historical nitrate loading from agricultural land on the nitrate-concentration trends in the sandstone aquifers in the Eden Valley, UK. Science of The Total Environment, 579. 133-148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.10.235

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Abstract/Summary

Nitrate water pollution, which is mainly caused by agricultural activities, remains an international problem. It can cause serious long-term environmental and human health issues due to nitrate time-lag in the groundwater system. However, the nitrate subsurface legacy issue has rarely been considered in environmental water management. We have developed a simple catchment-scale approach to investigate the impact of historical nitrate loading from agricultural land on the nitrate-concentration trends in sandstones, which represent major aquifers in the Eden Valley, UK. The model developed considers the spatio-temporal nitrate loading, low permeability superficial deposits, dual-porosity unsaturated zones, and nitrate dilution in aquifers. Monte Carlo simulations were undertaken to analyse parameter sensitivity and calibrate the model using observed datasets. Time series of annual average nitrate concentrations from 1925 to 2150 were generated for four aquifer zones in the study area. The results show that the nitrate concentrations in ‘St Bees Sandstones’, ‘silicified Penrith Sandstones’, and ‘non-silicified Penrith Sandstones’ keep rising or stay high before declining to stable levels, whilst that in ‘interbedded Brockram Penrith Sandstones’ will level off after a slight decrease. This study can help policymakers better understand local nitrate-legacy issues. It also provides a framework for informing the long-term impact and timescale of different scenarios introduced to deliver water-quality compliance. This model requires relatively modest parameterisation and is readily transferable to other areas.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.10.235
ISSN: 00489697
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Diffuse pollution, Nitrate pollution
Date made live: 07 Feb 2017 15:15 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/516140

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