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Anthropogenic contamination of groundwater with nitrate in arid region: case study of southern Hodna (Algeria)

  • Abdesselam, Salah
  • HALITIM, Amor
  • Jan, Anthony
  • Trolard, Fabienne
  • Bourrié, Guilhem
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2013
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In southern Hodna, an arid region of Algeria, the extension of irrigated agriculture and overexploitation of groundwaters have led to a rupture with traditional land use by pastoralism. Due to the arid conditions, ground-waters are the only water resources for man and irrigation. This study focuses on nitrate contamination of groundwa-ters and its increase since the last 40 years, on the basis of two archives and recent analyses. The chemical facies of waters is sulphate-chloride, the risk of salinity is moderate to large. The sodicity risk, as estimated by the SAR, is low due to the large salinity and the sandy soil texture. Nitrate contamination of deep groundwater is a clear evidence when recent data are compared to the historical data. From 1996 to 2008, the proportion of samples with NO 3-concentrations larger than 50 mg/L increases from 24 to 61 %, the proportion of samples with NO 3-concentrations larger than 100 mg/L increases from 12 to 27 %. The study points at a general contamination of aquifers from anthropic origin: phreatic water was already contaminated when pas-toralism was dominant (1967); as population increased and irrigation agriculture developed with large use of N-fertilizers and organic amendments, contamination extended spatially and vertically to deep aquifer. To remediate this contamination, fertilizers should be fractionated and limited to plant requirements on the basis of soil and plant analyses. Excess of irrigation should be avoided. Soil surface should be continuously covered to prevent nitrate leaching. Secondly, more efficient irrigation techniques, such as localized irrigation, should be implemented, with adaptation of crop systems and fertilizer inputs to arid conditions. Farmers should then be trained; simultaneously, local agronomic references that are presently lacking should be acquired.

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