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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Special Submissions

Regional Nitrate and Pesticide Trends in Ground Water in the Eastern San Joaquin Valley, California


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 37 No. 5_Supplement, p. S-249-S-263
    Received: Feb 5, 2007

    * Corresponding author(s): krburow@usgs.gov
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  1. Karen R. Burow *,
  2. Jennifer L. Shelton and
  3. Neil M. Dubrovsky
  1. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Placer Hall, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819


Protection of ground water for present and future use requires monitoring and understanding of the mechanisms controlling long-term quality of ground water. In this study, spatial and temporal trends in concentrations of nitrate and pesticides in ground water in the eastern San Joaquin Valley, California, were evaluated to determine the long-term effects of agricultural and urban development on regional ground-water quality. Trends in concentrations of nitrate, the nematocide 1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane, and the herbicide simazine during the last two decades are generally consistent with known nitrogen fertilizer and pesticide use and with the position of the well networks in the regional ground-water flow system. Concentrations of nitrate and pesticides are higher in the shallow part of the aquifer system where domestic wells are typically screened, whereas concentrations are lower in the deep part of the aquifer system where public-supply wells are typically screened. Attenuation processes do not seem to significantly affect concentrations. Historical data indicate that concentrations of nitrate have increased since the 1950s in the shallow and deep parts of the aquifer system. Concentrations of nitrate and detection of pesticides in the deep part of the aquifer system will likely increase as the proportion of highly affected water contributed to these wells increases with time. Because of the time of travel between the water table and the deep part of the aquifer system, current concentrations in public-supply wells likely reflect the effects of 40- to 50-yr-old management practices.

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