ASSESSMENT OF DENITRIFICATION RATES IN FISSURED-KARSTIC AQUIFER NEAR OPOLE (SOUTH-WEST POLAND): COMBINED USE OF GASEOUS AND ISOTOPE TRACERS

Anna Żurek, Kazimierz Różański, Paweł Mochalski, Tadeusz Kuc

Abstract


Abstract. Denitrification is the only process leading to reduction of nitrate concentration in groundwater. In this paper the authors report the results of combined measurements of excess gaseous nitrogen and 18O and 15N isotope composition of dissolved nitrate in fissured-karstic Triassic aquifer located in southwestern Poland, in the vicinity of Opole. Generally, the wells located in the confined part of the aquifer reveal greatly reduced nitrate content (ca. 0.3 and 2.7 mg NO3/dm3). Such decrease of nitrate content together with 18O and 15N data for those wells suggest well-advanced denitrification process. Enrichment in 15N and 18O of the remaining nitrate corresponds to initial nitrate content in the order of 1.5 to 12 mg NO3/dm3. Lack of tritium in those wells suggest the pre-bomb age of water and natural range of initial nitrate content. In majority of the measured wells nitrogen excess has been below the detection limit of ca. 3.5 mg NO3/dm3. This method is riot sensitive enough to detect denitrification of natural nitrate which concentrations in groundwater in the study area were generally below 10 mg NO3/dm3. The presented study demonstrated that combining isotope analyses of nitrates with tritium or other transient tracers may provide additional insights into the dynamics of water and nitrate transformation in groundwater systems.


Keywords


excess nitrogen, isotope composition of nitrate, denitrification, fissured-karetic aquifer.

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