Nitrate Accumulation and Other Components of the Groundwater in Relation to Cropping System in an Aquifer in Southwestern Spain
Inappropriate farming techniques and 4 years of drought (1992–1995) produced conditions for high nitrate concentration in an aquifer located in the Province of Seville (Southwest Spain). The objectives of this study were to study groundwater components and to determine the relationship between the cropping system and nitrate concentrations in groundwater. From October 1994 to May 1996, 16 groundwater samples were obtained from a network of 35 sample points. Groundwater concentrations were analysed by multivariate statistical techniques (factor and cluster analysis). Two factors were found: firstly, agricultural pollution and secondly, salinization (from natural mineralization of groundwater and from anthropogenic effects). High levels of NO3– were closely associated with intensive cotton (Gossypium herbaceum L.) and potato production (Solanum tuberosum L.). The salinization factor includes electrical conductivity, Cl–, Na+, Ca2 +, Mg2 +, SO42 – and HCO3–. Our study permits the impact of crops on groundwater to be determined. In comparison to the other crops, cotton (Gossypium herbaceum L.) and potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) made the greatest contribution to nitrate pollution and salinization. Use of the groundwater for human consumption in drought periods could represent a public health risk. Alternative farming techniques for these crops such as monitored fractional fertilization and controlled irrigation are recommended.