Surface water chemistry and nitrate pollution in Shimabara, Nagasaki, Japan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Groundwater is a finite resource that is threatened by pollution all over the world. Shimabara City, Nagasaki, Japan, uses groundwater for its main water supply. During recent years, the city has experienced severe nitrate pollution in its groundwater. For better understanding of origin and impact of the pollution, chemical effects and surface–groundwater interactions need to be examined. For this purpose, we developed a methodology that builds on joint geochemical analyses and advanced statistical treatment. Water samples were collected at 42 sampling points in Shimabara including a part of Unzen City. Spatial distribution of water chemistry constituents was assessed by describing Stiff and Piper diagrams using major ions concentrations. The nitrate (NO3 + NO2–N) concentration in 45% of water samples exceeded permissible Japanese drinking level of 10 mg L− 1. Most of the samples showed Ca–HCO3 or Ca–(NO3 + SO4) water types. Some samples were classified into characteristic water types such as Na–Cl, (Na + K)–HCO3, (Na + K)–(SO4 + NO3), and Ca–Cl. Thus, results indicated salt water intrusion from the sea and anthropogenic pollution. At the upstream of Nishi River, although water chemistry was characterized as Ca–HCO3, ion concentrations were higher than those of other rivers. This is probably an effect of disinfection in livestock farming using slaked lime. Positive correlation between NO3 and SO4 2−, Mg2+, Ca2+, Na+, K+, and Cl (r = 0.32–0.64) is evidence that nitrate pollution sources are chemical fertilizers and livestock waste. Principal component analysis showed that chemistry of water samples can be explained by three main components (PCs). PC1 depicts general ion concentration. PC2 and PC3 share influence from chemical fertilizer and livestock waste. Cluster analyses grouped water samples into four main clusters. One of these is the general river chemistry mainly affected by PC1. The others reflect anthropogenic activities and are identified by the combination of the three PCs.


External organisations
  • Nagasaki University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources


  • Correlation analysis, Hierarchical cluster analysis, Nitrate pollution, Principal component analysis, Surface water, Water chemistry
Original languageEnglish
Article number354
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May 1
Publication categoryResearch