Spatio-temporal variability of groundwater nitrate concentration in Texas: 1960 to 2010. Academic Article uri icon


  • Nitrate (NO) is a major contaminant and threat to groundwater quality in Texas. High-NO groundwater used for irrigation and domestic purposes has serious environmental and health implications. The objective of this study was to evaluate spatio-temporal trends in groundwater NO concentrations in Texas on a county basis from 1960 to 2010 with special emphasis on the Texas Rolling Plains (TRP) using the Texas Water Development Board's groundwater quality database. Results indicated that groundwater NO concentrations have significantly increased in several counties since the 1960s. In 25 counties, >30% of the observations exceeded the maximum contamination level (MCL) for NO (44 mg L NO) in the 2000s as compared with eight counties in the 1960s. In Haskell and Knox Counties of the TRP, all observations exceeded the NO MCL in the 2000s. A distinct spatial clustering of high-NO counties has become increasingly apparent with time in the TRP, as indicated by different spatial indices. County median NO concentrations in the TRP region were positively correlated with county-based area estimates of crop lands, fertilized croplands, and irrigated croplands, suggesting a negative impact of agricultural practices on groundwater NO concentrations. The highly transmissive geologic and soil media in the TRP have likely facilitated NO movement and groundwater contamination in this region. A major hindrance in evaluating groundwater NO concentrations was the lack of adequate recent observations. Overall, the results indicated a substantial deterioration of groundwater quality by NO across the state due to agricultural activities, emphasizing the need for a more frequent and spatially intensive groundwater sampling.

published proceedings

  • J Environ Qual

author list (cited authors)

  • Chaudhuri, S., Ale, S., Delaune, P., & Rajan, N.

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Chaudhuri, Sriroop||Ale, Srinivasulu||Delaune, Paul||Rajan, Nithya

publication date

  • November 2012