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Volume 1 (2001), Pages 216-222
Research Article

Distribution and Sources of Nitrate-Nitrogen in Kansas Groundwater

Kansas Geological Survey, Lawrence 66047, USA

Academic Editor: Joe Wisniewski

Copyright © 2001 Margaret A. Townsend et al.


Kansas is primarily an agricultural state. Irrigation water and fertilizer use data show long- term increasing trends. Similarly, nitrate-N concentrations in groundwater show long-term increases and exceed the drinking-water standard of 10 mg/l in many areas. A statistical analysis of nitrate-N data collected for local and regional studies in Kansas from 1990 to 1998 (747 samples) found significant relationships between nitrate-N concentration with depth, age, and geographic location of wells. Sources of nitrate-N have been identified for 297 water samples by using nitrogen stable isotopes. Of these samples, 48% showed fertilizer sources (+2 to +8) and 34% showed either animal waste sources (+10 to +15 with nitrate-N greater than 10 mg/l) or indication that enrichment processes had occurred (+10 or above with variable nitrate-N) or both. Ultimate sources for nitrate include nonpoint sources associated with past farming and fertilization practices, and point sources such as animal feed lots, septic systems, and commercial fertilizer storage units. Detection of nitrate from various sources in aquifers of different depths in geographically varied areas of the state indicates that nonpoint and point sources currently impact and will continue to impact groundwater under current land uses.