Three Dimensional Modeling of Agricultural Contamination of Groundwater: a Case Study in the Nebraska Management Systems Evaluation Area (MSEA) Site
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Contamination of groundwater from nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides in agricultural lands is an important environmental and water quality management issue. It is well recognized that in agriculturally intensive areas, fertilizers and pesticides may leach through the vadose zone and eventually reach groundwater, impacting future uses of this limited resource. While numerical models are commonly used to simulate fate and transport of agricultural contaminants, few models have been validated based on realistic three dimensional soil lithology, hydrological conditions, and historical changes in groundwater quality. In this work, contamination of groundwater in the Nebraska Management Systems Evaluation Area (MSEA) site was simulated based on extensive field data including (1) lithology from 69 wells and 11 test holes; (2) surface soil type, land use, and surface elevations; (3) 5-year groundwater level and flow velocity; (4) daily meteorological monitoring; (5) 5-year seasonal irrigation records; (6) 5-years of spatially intensive contaminant concentration in 40 multilevel monitoring wells; and (7) detailed cultivation records. Using this data, a three-dimensional vadose zone lithological framework was developed using a commercial software tool (RockworksTM). Based on the interpolated lithology, a hydrological model was developed using HYDRUS-3D to simulate water flow and contaminant transport. The model was validated through comparison of simulated atrazine and nitrate concentration with historical data from 40 wells and multilevel samplers. The validated model will be used to predict potential changes in ground water quality due to agricultural contamination under future climate scenarios in the High Plain Aquifer system.