Using vadose zone data and spatial statistics to assess the impact of cultivated land and dairy waste lagoons on groundwater contamination

S. Baram, Z. Ronen, D. Kurtzman, A. Peeters, O. Dahan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Land cultivation and dairy waste lagoons are considered to be nonpoint and point sources of groundwater contamination by chloride (Cl-) and nitrate (NO3-). The objective of this work is to introduce a methodology to assess the past and future impacts of such agricultural activities on regional groundwater quality. The method is based on mass balances and on spatial statistical analysis of Cl- and NO3-concentration distributions in the saturated and unsaturated zones. The method enables quantitative analysis of the relation between the locations of pollution point sources and the spatial variability in Cl- and NO3- concentrations in groundwater. The method was applied to the Beer-Tuvia region, Israel, where intensive dairy farming along with land cultivation has been practiced for over 50 years above the local phreatic aquifer. Mass balance calculations accounted for the various groundwater recharge and abstraction sources and sinks in the entire region. The mass balances showed that leachates from lagoons and the cultivated land have contributed 6.0 and 89.4 % of the total mass of Cl- added to the aquifer and 12.6 and 77.4 % of the total mass of NO3-. The chemical composition of the aquifer and vadose zone water suggested that irrigated agricultural activity in the region is the main contributor of Cl- and NO3- to the groundwater. A low spatial correlation between the Cl- and NO3- concentrations in the groundwater and the on-land location of the dairy farms strengthened this assumption, despite the dairy waste lagoon being a point source for groundwater contamination by Cl- and NO3-. Results demonstrate that analyzing vadose zone and groundwater data by spatial statistical analysis methods can significantly contribute to the understanding of the relations between groundwater contaminating sources, and to assessing appropriate remediation steps.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2013, abstract id. H43J-04
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2013

Publication series

NameGeophysical Research Abstracts
PublisherCopernicus GmbH


  • 1831 HYDROLOGY Groundwater quality
  • 1834 HYDROLOGY Human impacts
  • 1875 HYDROLOGY Vadose zone


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