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Linking Denitrification and Infiltration Rates during Managed Groundwater Recharge

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journal contribution
posted on 15.11.2011, 00:00 by Calla M. Schmidt, Andrew T. Fisher, Andrew J. Racz, Brian S. Lockwood, Marc Los Huertos
We quantify relations between rates of in situ denitrification and saturated infiltration through shallow, sandy soils during managed groundwater recharge. We used thermal methods to determine time series of point-specific flow rates, and chemical and isotopic methods to assess denitrification progress. Zero order denitrification rates between 3 and 300 μmol L–1 d–1 were measured during infiltration. Denitrification was not detected at times and locations where the infiltration rate exceeded a threshold of 0.7 ± 0.2 m d–1. Pore water profiles of oxygen and nitrate concentration indicated a deepening of the redoxocline at high flow rates, which reduced the thickness of the zone favorable for denitrification. Denitrification rates were positively correlated with infiltration rates below the infiltration threshold, suggesting that for a given set of sediment characteristics, there is an optimal infiltration rate for achieving maximum nitrate load reduction and improvements to water supply during managed groundwater recharge. The extent to which results from this study may be extended to other managed and natural hydrologic settings remains to be determined, but the approach taken in this study should be broadly applicable, and provides a quantitative link between shallow hydrologic and biogeochemical processes.