Vegetative Treatment System Impacts on Groundwater Quality
Increased environmental awareness has prompted the need for improved feedlot runoff control. Vegetative treatment systems (VTSs) provide a cost-effective option that may enhance environmental security by protecting water quality. Vegetative treatment systems are typically designed on the basis of hydraulic performance, which may result in excess application of some nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus. Groundwater quality monitoring is required to determine the effect, if any, that VTSs have on groundwater. Shallow groundwater (2 to 10 m) quality beneath six VTSs in Iowa was monitored over a four-year period. Monitoring wells were located upgradient, within, and downgradient of the VTSs. Groundwater samples were collected on a monthly basis and analyzed for ammoniacal nitrogen, chloride, nitrate-nitrogen, and fecal coliforms. A trend analysis was conducted to evaluate groundwater response patterns to VTS construction and use. In general, monitoring wells located within and downgradient of the VTS showed increasing trends in chloride and decreasing trends in nitrate concentrations. No trends for fecal coliforms or ammoniacal nitrogen were seen. Statistical analysis was performed to test for concentration differences between upgradient, within, and downgradient monitoring wells. In general, no differences in ammoniacal nitrogen concentration were seen. Fecal coliform concentrations were generally highest at the monitoring well within the VTS, but no difference was found between upgradient and downgradient concentrations. Chloride concentrations were generally significantly higher within and downgradient of the VTS when compared to the upgradient well; nitrate concentrations were generally significantly lower within and downgradient of the VTA than upgradient.