Nitrogen leaching losses from a wastewater land application system

Runbin Duan, Clifford B. Fedler, Christopher D. Sheppard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Potential contamination of groundwater because of nitrogen leaching has been an important concern in municipal wastewater land application systems; however, few efforts have made to measure nitrogen leaching (total N, NO 3--N, and NH4+-N) under field conditions. This research successfully developed a conceptual nitrogen mass balance model and quantified its components at a wastewater land application system located at the City of Littlefield, Texas, from October 2005 to September 2007. The concentrations of total nitrogen and nitrate-nitrogen in the leachate were significantly less than 10 mg/L, therefore, there was no potential nitrogen contamination to groundwater found at this site during the research period. Linear regression models were analyzed and resulted in R2 values of 0.918, 0.966, and 0.833 between cumulative applied total nitrogen mass and cumulative leached total nitrogen mass, cumulative applied nitrate-nitrogen mass and cumulative leached nitratenitrogen mass, and cumulative applied ammonia-nitrogen mass and cumulative leached ammonia-nitrogen mass, respectively. The nitrogen mass balance design approach for this site resulted in significant nitrogen removal. Organic nitrogen may leach with other forms of nitrogen, and denitrification plays an important role in nitrogen removal during the winter and spring seasons when the grass is dry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-235
Number of pages9
JournalWater Environment Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Field study
  • Leaching
  • Lysimeter
  • Mass balance
  • Soil


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