Statistical methods and a Geographic Information System (GIS) were used to investigate potential indicators of ground water vulnerability to agricultural chemical contamination in a representative area of the Mississippi River alluvial aquifer. A total of 47 wells were sampled for analysis of nitrate, phosphorus, potassium, and 13 pesticides commonly-used in the area. Ten soil and hydrogeologic variables and five ground water vulnerability indices were examined to explain the variations of chemical concentrations. The results showed that no individual soil or hydrogeologic variables or their linear combinations could explain more than 25% of the variation of the chemical concentrations. A quadratic response surface model with the values of confining unit thickness, slope, soil permeability, depth to ground water, and recharge rate accounted for 62% of the variation of nitrate, 43% of P, and 83% of K, suggesting that the interactions among soil and hydrogeologic variables were significant. Observed trends of decreasing nitrate and P concentrations with increasing well depth and/or depth to ground water seemed to correlate with carbonate equilibrium in the aquifer and more reduced environment with depth. In view of uncertainties involved, it was recognized that the limitations associated with input data resolution used in GIS and the formulation of leaching indices limited their use for predicting ground water vulnerability. Misuse of pesticides could be another factor that would complicate the relationships between pesticide concentrations and the vulnerability indices.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Science(all)
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law