Characterization of agricultural nitrate pollution in a Mediterranean region: what should be the next step to deal with this environmental problem?
Catalan Institute for Water Research & University of Girona
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During the last fifteen years, our research groups have characterized several aquifers in Catalonia (NE Spain) looking for the extent of nitrate pollution and the occurrence of denitrification processes from a hydrogeological and hydrogeochemical perspectives. Moreover, some statistical methods have been applied to discern the main factors that control aquifer vulnerability to nitrate pollution. Five out of ten of the aquifers declared as vulnerable to nitrate pollution in Catalonia, as a result of EU directives have been investigated and the results published in distinct scientific journals and PhD dissertations (Vitòria, 2006; Otero et al., 2009; Menció et al., 2011, 2016; Folch et al., 2011; Puig et al., 2013; Boy et al., 2013). In this contribution, we analyze the hydrogeological characteristics of the affected aquifers, the extent of the pollution and denitrification processes, the rate of groundwater exploitation and its final use as well as the occurrence of alternative water resources for human uses, and lastly the pressures upon groundwater quality (fertilization, waste water infiltration, …). This analysis provides a qualitative evaluation for the future availability of suitable groundwater resources in these aquifers. Such evaluation is further on conducted on the light of the expected water scarcity related to global change, as defined by the climatic scenarios for the western Mediterranean area and land-use changes.Such a regional analysis, which includes present circumstances and future situations, ranks all the aquifers according to the extent of their overall impact and prioritizes potential actions to overcome nitrate pollution as one of the potential limiting factor for groundwater uses in the next decades.Acknowledgements: This study is part of the REMEDIATION project (Spanish National Program on Water Resources; CGL2014-57215-C4-2-R).References:Boy, M., B.T. Nolan, A. Menció, J. Mas-Pla (2013). Journal of Hydrology, 505: 150-162. Folch, A., A. Menció, R. Puig, A. Soler, J. Mas-Pla (2011). Journal of Hydrology, 403: 83-102. Menció, A., J. Mas-Pla, N. Otero, A. Soler (2011). Hydrological Sciences Journal, 56(1): 108-122.Menció, A., J. Mas-Pla, A. Soler, N. Otero, O. Regàs, M. Boy-Roura, R. Puig, J. Bach, C. Domènech, A. Folch, M. Zamorano, D. Brusi (2016). Science of the Total Environment, 539C: 241-251. Otero, N., C. Torrentó, A. Soler, A. Menció, J. Mas-Pla (2009). Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 133: 103-113.Puig, R., A. Folch, A. Menció, A. Soler, J. Mas-Pla (2013). Applied Geochemistry, 32: 129-141. Vitòria, L. (2006). PhD Dissert. University of Barcelona.