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Project ID: 2002NH3B

Title: Characterization of Groundwater Discharge to Hampton Harbor

Project Type: Research

Focus Categories: Groundwater, Non Point Pollution, Nutrients

Keywords: Thermal Infrared, Groundwater Discharge, Nutrient, Pollution, Coastal Management, Coastal, Estuary

Start Date: 03/01/2002

End Date: 02/28/2003

Federal Funds: $3,000

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $7,350

Congressional District:

Principal Investigator:
Thomas P. Ballestero
University of New Hampshire


This proposal seeks supplementary funds for an existing project to augment water quality analyses with two additional parameters: dissolved organic nitrogen and dissolved organic carbon. Nutrient loading of coastal waters from groundwater discharge is a significant problem that historically has been very difficult to quantify. Current research shows that groundwater may constitute as much as 40% of the total freshwater discharge into coastal waters and capable of carrying a significant nutrient load. The majority of existing research has focused on dissolved inorganic nitrogen, which we propose to compliment with dissolved organic nitrogen to get a more complete understanding of total nitrogen loading. Our research in coastal New Hampshire, using recent advances in thermal imagery and field techniques, indicates that groundwater is one of the dominant sources of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and on par with major tributaries. Coastal managers have the difficult task of identifying, prioritizing and mitigating coastal and estuarine contaminant sources. Regulators and resource managers must quantify each contaminant source in order to accurately determine nutrient loads. Recent advances in thermal infrared imagery provide an affordable tool with which to evaluate groundwater contamination. Contaminant loading estimates are an integral part of effective resource management allowing managers to prioritize efforts based on the size and relative importance of the source. Tools that can simplify the increasingly complicated task of resource management for coastal managers are invaluable. In coastal areas where shallow unconfined aquifers predominate, significant flow occurs through transmissive materials (sands and gravels), discharging groundwater into coastal waters. The EPA has identified nonpoint sources such as underground storage tanks, septic systems, landfills, and agriculture lands as the primary sources of groundwater contamination. Thus, in coastal communities where these nonpoint sources are prevalent, groundwater may be transporting significant nutrient concentrations that contribute to the degradation of estuarine and coastal health. New methodologies to accurately assess contaminant loading from groundwater will improve the determination of nutrient loading and ultimately the protection and preservation of estuarine and coastal waters.

Progress/Completion Report PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Last Updated: Thursday June 24, 2004 3:18 PM
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