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Nitrogen and Phosphorus in Water as Related to Environmental Setting in Nebraska

By J.O. Helgesen, R.B. Zelt, and J.K. Stamer
KEY TERMS: water quality; statistical analysis; nonpoint source pollution; land use; nitrogen; phosphorus

ABSTRACT: Spatial distributions of nitrogen and phosphorus in water were related to environmental setting as part of a regional water-quality assessment of the Central Nebraska Basins. The environmental settings (Sandhills, Loess Hills, Glaciated Area, and Platte Valley) were characterized by different concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in groundwater and stream water. Statistically significant differences in nitrate concentrations in both ground-water and stream-water samples were related to regional distributions of cropland and rangeland. Nitrate concentrations were larger, especially in shallow groundwater, in environmental settings dominated by cropland and associated fertilizer use than in settings dominated by rangeland. Similarly, total-nitrogen and nitrate concentrations were relatively large in selected streams draining primarily cropland. Comparative concentrations of phosphorus in stream water on the basis of environmental setting were similar to those of nitrogen, although the largest phosphorus concentrations probably relate to wastewater discharge into small streams. Nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in much of the Platte River apparently reflected the quality of water entering the study unit from upstream and limited base-flow contributions from within the Platte Valley itself.

Helgesen, J.O., Zelt, R.B., and Stamer, J.K., 1994, Nitrogen and phosphorus in water as related to environmental setting in Nebraska: Water Resources Bulletin, v. 30, no. 5, p. 809-822.

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