Nitrate source and fate at the catchment scale of the Vibrata River and aquifer (central Italy): an analysis by integrating component approaches and nitrogen isotopes

Research paper by Tiziana Di Lorenzo, Mauro Brilli, Dina Del Tosto, Diana M. P. Galassi, Marco Petitta

Indexed on: 04 May '12Published on: 04 May '12Published in: Environmental Geology


The aim of this study is to apply an integrated approach to determine nitrate sources and fate in the alluvial aquifer of the River Vibrata (Abruzzi, central Italy) by coupling the Isotope and the Component approaches. Collected data include concentration and nitrogen isotope composition of groundwater samples from the alluvial aquifer and nitrogen loads arising from agricultural and non-agricultural sources. The adopted methodology identified synthetic fertilizers as main sources of nitrate in the Vibrata alluvial aquifer. At the catchment scale, two different zones have been identified: the Upper Valley, where infiltration to groundwater is dominant and nitrogen easily migrates into the aquifer; in this area, nitrate content in groundwater is stable and normally higher than EU requirements. Moreover, streamwaters are fed by groundwater with a nitrate content likely lowered by denitrification processes occurring in the hyporheic zone. In the Lower Valley, runoff processes dominate and the nitrate content in surface waters is higher. Nevertheless, groundwater is locally affected by denitrification that breaks down the nitrate content, which often reaches values consistent with law limits.