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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Hot spots and persistence of nitrate in aquifers across scales

  • Author(s): Dwivedi, D;
  • Mohanty, BP
  • et al.

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Nitrate-N (NO3- - N) is one of the most pervasive contaminants in groundwater. Nitrate in groundwater exhibits long-term behavior due to complex interactions at multiple scales among various geophysical factors, such as sources of nitrate-N, characteristics of the vadose zone and aquifer attributes. To minimize contamination of nitrate-N in groundwater, it is important to estimate hot spots (>10 mg/L of NO3- - N), trends and persistence of nitrate-N in groundwater. To analyze the trends and persistence of nitrate-N in groundwater at multiple spatio-temporal scales, we developed and used an entropy-based method along with the Hurst exponent in two different hydrogeologic settings: The Trinity and Ogallala Aquifers in Texas at fine (2 km × 2 km), intermediate (10 km × 10 km) and coarse (100 km × 100 km) scales. Results show that nitrate-N exhibits long-term persistence at the intermediate and coarse scales. In the Trinity Aquifer, overall mean nitrate-N has declined with a slight increase in normalized marginal entropy (NME) over each decade from 1940 to 2008; however, the number of hot spots has increased over time. In the Ogallala Aquifer, overall mean nitrate-N has increased with slight moderation in NME since 1940; however, the number of hot spots has significantly decreased for the same period at all scales.

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