Organic Nitrogen Concentrations and Trends in Urban Stormwater: Implications for Stormwater Monitoring and Management

Friday, 19 December 2014
Mary G Lusk, University of Florida, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Soil and Water Science, Wimauma, FL, United States and Gurpal Toor, Univ of FL-Gulf Coast REC, Wimauma, FL, United States
Organic nitrogen (ON) can be a significant contributor of bioavailable N to the phytoplankton and bacteria that cause eutrophication and harmful algal blooms. In urban systems, urban stormwater runoff containing ON compounds is one source of potentially bioavailable N in water bodies. However, ON characterization and concentrations in urban stormwater are rarely reported or considered for urban stormwater management. We instrumented a 13-hectare residential catchment in Florida’s Tampa Bay area with an ISCO autosampler and collected storm event runoff samples at 15-minute intervals during the 2013 wet season (June to September, n =236). Our objectives were to determine the (1) relative importance of ON compared to inorganic N forms (i.e., NO3- and NH4+) in the runoff, (2) investigate temporal trends in the ON concentrations in runoff, and (3) assess how rainfall depth and intensity affect any temporal trends. Mean concentration of total N in stormwater runoff for the wet season was 1.86 mg/l, of which dissolved and particulate ON were 63%. The dominance of ON in urban stormwater runoff suggests that the ON fraction should also be targeted when stormwater control measures call for N reductions. Particulate ON (PON) displayed a strong seasonal first flush trend as season progressed from June (1.45 mg/l; n =75) to September (0.20 mg/l; n = 28), while dissolved ON (DON) did not display any seasonal trend, with mean monthly concentrations ranging from 0.36 to 0.80 mg/l. A principal component analysis using storm event N concentrations, rainfall depth, and rainfall intensity as variables showed no significant correlation, suggesting that storms of various sizes and intensities can mobilize ON. The seasonal first flush observed for PON in the wet season can provide a window of time for optimal N removal and implies that stormwater best management practices should focus on capturing plant materials earlier in the season.