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Quantitative evaluation of specific vulnerability to nitrate for groundwater resource protection based on process-based simulation model

Huan, Huan, Wang, Jinsheng, Zhai, Yuanzheng, Xi, Beidou, Li, Juan, Li, Mingxiao
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.550 pp. 768-784
adsorption, ammonium nitrate, case studies, cognition, denitrification, environmental fate, floodplains, groundwater, laboratory experimentation, nitrification, quantitative analysis, risk assessment, rivers, simulation models, soil physical properties, solutes, terraces, vadose zone, water table, China
It has been proved that groundwater vulnerability assessment is an effective tool for groundwater protection. Nowadays, quantitative assessment methods for specific vulnerability are scarce due to limited cognition of complicated contaminant fate and transport processes in the groundwater system. In this paper, process-based simulation model for specific vulnerability to nitrate using 1D flow and solute transport model in the unsaturated vadose zone is presented for groundwater resource protection. For this case study in Jilin City of northeast China, rate constants of denitrification and nitrification as well as adsorption constants of ammonium and nitrate in the vadose zone were acquired by laboratory experiments. The transfer time at the groundwater table t50 was taken as the specific vulnerability indicator. Finally, overall vulnerability was assessed by establishing the relationship between groundwater net recharge, layer thickness and t50. The results suggested that the most vulnerable regions of Jilin City were mainly distributed in the floodplain of Songhua River and Mangniu River. The least vulnerable areas mostly appear in the second terrace and back of the first terrace. The overall area of low, relatively low and moderate vulnerability accounted for 76% of the study area, suggesting the relatively low possibility of suffering nitrate contamination. In addition, the sensitivity analysis showed that the most sensitive factors of specific vulnerability in the vadose zone included the groundwater net recharge rate, physical properties of soil medium and rate constants of nitrate denitrification. By validating the suitability of the process-based simulation model for specific vulnerability and comparing with index-based method by a group of integrated indicators, more realistic and accurate specific vulnerability mapping could be acquired by the process-based simulation model acquiring. In addition, the advantages, disadvantages, constraint conditions and applying prospects of the quantitative approach for specific vulnerability assessment were discussed.