Nitrate as a tracer of groundwater flow in a fractured multilayered aquifer

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Knowledge of the processes that control nitrate migration and its geochemical evolution in the subsurface are fundamental for the regional management of polluted aquifers. In this paper, the spatial distribution and transient variations of nitrate concentrations, associated with manure fertilization, are used to depict hydrogeological dynamics within the sedimentary aquifer system of la Plana de Vic in the Osona region of Spain. Flow systems are identified from geological, hydraulic head, hydrochemical and isotopic data, and by considering nitrate itself as a tracer that indicates how flow paths are modified by human pressures. In this area, nitrates move through fractured aquitards in flows induced by groundwater pumping. Moreover, the lack of casing in the boreholes permits a mixing of groundwater from distinct layers inside the wells, which negates any benefits from the low-nitrate groundwater found in the deepest aquifer layers. Therefore, impacts on groundwater quality are related to intensive manure fertilization as well as to inadequate well construction and exploitation strategies ​
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