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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 37 No. 5_Supplement, p. S-296-S-308
     
    Received: Dec 26, 2007


    * Corresponding author(s): lmdebrew@usgs.gov
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doi:10.2134/jeq2007.0664

Temporal Trends in Nitrate and Selected Pesticides in Mid-Atlantic Ground Water

  1. Linda M. Debrewer *,
  2. Scott W. Ator and
  3. Judith M. Denver
  1. U.S. Geological Survey, Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Water Science Center, 5522 Research Park Drive, Baltimore, MD 21228

Abstract

Evaluating long-term temporal trends in regional ground-water quality is complicated by variable hydrogeologic conditions and typically slow flow, and such trends have rarely been directly measured. Ground-water samples were collected over near-decadal and annual intervals from unconfined aquifers in agricultural areas of the Mid-Atlantic region, including fractured carbonate rocks in the Great Valley, Potomac River Basin, and unconsolidated sediments on the Delmarva Peninsula. Concentrations of nitrate and selected pesticides and degradates were compared among sampling events and to apparent recharge dates. Observed temporal trends are related to changes in land use and chemical applications, and to hydrogeology and climate. Insignificant differences in nitrate concentrations in the Great Valley between 1993 and 2002 are consistent with relatively steady fertilizer application during respective recharge periods and are likely related to drought conditions in the later sampling period. Detecting trends in Great Valley ground water is complicated by long open boreholes characteristic of wells sampled in this setting which facilitate significant ground-water mixing. Decreasing atrazine and prometon concentrations, however, reflect reported changes in usage. On the Delmarva Peninsula between 1988 and 2001, median nitrate concentrations increased 2 mg per liter in aerobic ground water, reflecting increasing fertilizer applications. Correlations between selected pesticide compounds and apparent recharge date are similarly related to changing land use and chemical application. Observed trends in the two settings demonstrate the importance of considering hydrogeology and recharge date along with changing land and chemical uses when interpreting trends in regional ground-water quality.

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