Ground Water Canada

Paper links ground water nitrate concentrations to land-use practices

July 11, 2018  By Ground Water Canada

Vancouver – A University of British Columbia doctoral candidate recently published her thesis examining land use land cover (LULC) emphasizing transboundary aquifers and quantitatively linking ground water nitrate concentrations to land-use practices.

The paper, entitled “Linking Landscape Indicators to Groundwater Nitrate Concentrations in a Transboundary Aquifer,” was written by Tanya Louise Gallagher, a doctoral candidate in the department of forestry.

Gallagher developed several long-term monitoring approaches and evaluated their use in a well-studied transnational aquifer where elevated ground water nitrate concentrations are of concern, according to a summary of the study.


The objective was to develop approaches for examining LULC impacts to ground water through two methods. Gallagher used remote sensing to examine two decades of LULC change surrounding 11 ground water dependent cities. She also created localized landscape indicators and evaluated their correspondence to long-term trends in ground water nitrate concentrations.

The paper examines two areas spanning the Canada-U.S. border including small cities throughout the Greater Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer region and the Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer (ASA) proper.

She used a combination of historical photography, transnational satellite imagery, and ground water monitoring wells spanning four decades.

“Within the localized ASA, I determined that groundwater nitrate concentrations could be explained using landscape features measured within the vicinity of wells,” Gallagher said in the summary. “I further determined that long-term trends in nitrate were best explained by historical landscape indicators from two decades prior (as opposed to contemporaneous indicators).”

Read the full paper.

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