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Sci Total Environ. 2011 Jul 1;409(15):2859-73. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.04.016.

A review of the impact of climate change on future nitrate concentrations in groundwater of the UK.

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British Geological Survey, Maclean Building, Wallingford, Oxon, OX108BB, UK.


This paper reviews the potential impacts of climate change on nitrate concentrations in groundwater of the UK using a Source-Pathway-Receptor framework. Changes in temperature, precipitation quantity and distribution, and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will affect the agricultural nitrate source term through changes in both soil processes and agricultural productivity. Non-agricultural source terms, such as urban areas and atmospheric deposition, are also expected to be affected. The implications for the rate of nitrate leaching to groundwater as a result of these changes are not yet fully understood but predictions suggest that leaching rate may increase under future climate scenarios. Climate change will affect the hydrological cycle with changes to recharge, groundwater levels and resources and flow processes. These changes will impact on concentrations of nitrate in abstracted water and other receptors, such as surface water and groundwater-fed wetlands. The implications for nitrate leaching to groundwater as a result of climate changes are not yet well enough understood to be able to make useful predictions without more site-specific data. The few studies which address the whole cycle show likely changes in nitrate leaching ranging from limited increases to a possible doubling of aquifer concentrations by 2100. These changes may be masked by nitrate reductions from improved agricultural practices, but a range of adaption measures need to be identified. Future impact may also be driven by economic responses to climate change.

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