3 years ago

Unexpected nationwide nitrate declines in groundwater of Korea

Jin-Yong Lee, Yu-Chul Park, Kideok D. Kwon, Woo-Hyun Jeon
Elevated levels of nitrate in groundwater are an important concern for health and the environment. The overapplication of nitrogen (N) fertilizer to croplands is one of the major sources of high nitrate content in groundwater. In this study, we analyse the nitrate concentrations in Korean groundwater based on data from groundwater quality monitoring wells (n=1,022–2,072), which were sampled twice annually over a recent 13-year analysis period (2001–2013). We report that groundwater nitrate levels are decreasing, despite steadily increasing groundwater use. The maximum nitrate concentration decreased from 168.91 to 48.11 mg/L, while the mean values also show a gradual decreasing trend. Nonparametric Mann-Kendall tests on nitrate concentrations also confirm the decreasing trend. The nitrate decrease is more clearly evident in agricultural groundwater as compared to domestic and drinking groundwaters. This decrease of nitrate in groundwater coincides with a large decline in N fertilizer application due to reduced cropland areas, more sustainable agricultural practices, and progressive improvement of sewage disposal services. This study proposes that the long-term adoption of best practices in agriculture has had a positive impact on groundwater nitrate control.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1002/hyp.11389

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