Improving understanding of nitrate sources in connected river and groundwater systems through linking nitrate isotopes and contaminants of emerging concern

Open for proposals

Project Type

Coordinated Research Project

Project Code

F32010

CRP

2310

Approved Date

9 September 2021

Status

2 - New - Collecting or Evaluating proposals

Description

Nitrate contamination makes water unconsumable hence, reducing access to drinking water - a key factor of well-being as recognized in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 6). While nitrate source identification remains challenging using hydrochemical measurements, the analysis of stable isotopes in nitrate opens the possibility to track nitrate sources and processes. However, nitrate isotopes are not suitable to differentiate closely related sources of nitrate contamination with overlapping isotopic signatures, such as sewage and manure, as well as treated versus raw sewage inputs. One solution is to use isotopic techniques in conjunction with compounds of emerging concern (CECs). CECs are ideal chemical markers of faecal contamination (sewage or manure) as they are usually linked to a specific source, are ubiquitous in that source and are persistent and present at detectable concentrations in contaminated environmental samples but not in clean water. Their high solubility in water and low volatility facilitates their use as tracers for water-soluble components originating in sewage and manure. The CRP puts forward this innovative approach of combining stable isotopes of nitrate with CECs in surface and groundwater in order improve nitrogen source tracking and source delineation, understanding hydrological and hydrochemical behavior of anthropized water systems, and more precise quantification of groundwater/surface water interaction and rapid infiltration rates.

Objectives

The CRP will introduce the combined use of isotopes and CECs to delineate nitrate sources and evaluate nitrate pathways and related processes in surface water and groundwater. The CRP improve the understanding and provide the guideline on interpretation of environmental isotopes to trace anthropogenic nitrogen inputs and nitrate related processes in surface water and groundwater resources.

Specific objectives

Introduce the combined use of isotopes and CECs to delineate nitrate sources and evaluate nitrate pathways and related processes in surface water and groundwater

Assess and improve the understanding and interpretation of environmental isotopes to trace anthropogenic nitrogen inputs and evaluate nitrate related processes in surface water and groundwater resources

Appraise the utility of the nitrogen isotope – CECs approach to distinguish sewage and manure sources and improve the interpretation of nitrate processes, sources, and pathways in surface water and groundwater

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