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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Agricultural Chemicals in Groundwater of the Midwestern United States: Relations to Land Use


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 26 No. 4, p. 1025-1037
    Received: Aug 1, 1996

    * Corresponding author(s): dwkolpin@usgs.gov
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  1. Dana W. Kolpin *
  1. U.S. Geological Survey, 400 S. Clinton St., Iowa City, IA 52244.



To determine the relations between land use and concentrations of selected agricultural chemicals (nitrate, atrazine residue [atrazine (2-chloro-4-ethylamino-6-isopropylamino-s-triazine) + deethylatrazinc (2-amino-4-chloro-6-isopropylamino-s-triazine) + deisopropylatrazine (2-amino-4-chloro-6-ethylamino-s-triazine)], and alachlor residue [alachlor, [2-chloro-2′,6′-diethyl-N-(methoxymethyl) acetanilide] + alachlor ethanesulfonic acid (alachlor-ESA; 2-[(2,6-diethylphenyl)(methoxymethyl)amino]-2-oxoethanesulfonic acid)] in groundwater, detailed land use information based on accurate measurements from aerial photographs for the 1991 growing season was obtained within a 2-km radius surrounding 100 wells completed in near-surface unconsolidated aquifers in the midwestern USA. The most significant land use factors to the agricultural chemicals examined were: nitrate (amount of irrigated crop production, positive relation), atrazine residue (amount of irrigated crop production, positive relation), and alachlor residue (amount of highly erodible land, inverse relation). The investigation of smaller buffer sizes (size of circular area around sampled wells) proved insightful for this study. Additional land use factors having significant relations to all three agricultural chemicals were identified using these smaller buffer radii. The most significant correlations (correlation maxima) generally occurred at ≤500-m for nitrate and ≥1000-m for atrazine residue and alachlor residue. An attempt to improve the statistical relations to land use by taking hydrologic considerations into account (removing land outside the estimated most probable recharge area from the statistical analysis) was not as successful as anticipated. Only 45% of the nitrate, 32% of the atrazine residue, and 20% of the alachlor residue correlations were improved by a consideration of the estimated most probable recharge area.

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