Groundwater geochemistry of a nitrate-contaminated agricultural site

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Groundwater samples were collected from several soil depths down to 50 m below soil surface to investigate vertical profiles of NO3 and hydrogeochemical characteristics of the experimental site. The experimental site is located in the Shimabara City, Nagasaki, Japan, where nitrate contamination in groundwater is severe due to intensive agricultural production. A transition zone regarding dissolved ions was found between specific depths caused by differences in the permeability of soil layers. Though NO3 concentration decreased significantly in the transition zone, the entire soil depth exceeded permissible levels (50 mg L−1) for drinking purposes. Comparing the temporal NO3 fluctuation above the transition zone with that of the below, distinct fluctuations were observed depending on sampling campaign. High rainfall amounts typically lead to initial decrease in NO3 concentration for the shallow groundwater. After some time, however, increase in NO3 concentration occurred due to leaching of accumulated NO3 in the soil matrix. This indicated that temporal NO3 fluctuation is mainly controlled by natural impact and occurring crop system. Results of principal component analysis suggested that application of chemical fertilizers [(NH4)2SO4, NH4NO3, and KCl], dissolution of minerals (feldspar, calcite, and dolomite), and ion exchange are the predominant factors resulting in the observed vertical groundwater chemistry. The relative magnitude of these three principal component scores changed across the transition zone. Below the transition zone, groundwater geochemistry reflected application of NH4NO3 and KCl fertilizer and dissolution of albite and orthoclase.


External organisations
  • Nagasaki University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
  • Soil Science


  • Groundwater, Nitrate contamination, Nitrate fluctuation, Principal component analysis, Vertical profile
Original languageEnglish
Article number1145
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Aug 1
Publication categoryResearch