Assessment of groundwater contamination by nitrate leaching from intensive vegetable cultivation using geographical information system


By Insaf S. Babiker, Mohamed A.A. Mohamed, H. Terao, Kikuo Kato, Keiichi Ohta.


This study employed the Geographical Information System (GIS) technology to investigate nitrate contamination of groundwater by agrochemical fertilizers in the Kakamigahara Heights, Gifu Prefecture, central Japan. Thematic information and chemical data of groundwater from the Heights were analyzed in a GIS environment to study the extent and variation of nitrate contamination and to establish spatial relationships with responsible land use types. The high and correlated concentrations of Ca2 +, Mg2 +, SO4 2  , and NO3  reflected the polluted nature of the unconfined highly permeable Kakamigahara aquifer. Ninety percent of the water samples showed nitrate concentrations above the human affected value (3 mg/l NO3  ), while more than 30% have exceeded the maximum acceptable level (44 mg/l NO3  ) according to Japan regulations. The spatial analyses indicated that groundwater contamination by nitrate is closely associated with one specific land use class, the ‘‘vegetable fields’’. The nitrate concentration of groundwater under vegetable fields was significantly higher than that under urban land or paddy fields. Most of the unacceptable nitrate levels were encountered in boreholes assigned to ‘‘vegetable fields’’ but a few were also found in boreholes allotted to ‘‘urban’’ class. Therefore, the vegetable fields were considered the principal source of nitrate contamination of groundwater in the Kakamigahara. However, contamination from urban sources is also possible. D 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.