Groundwater contamination by nitrogen compounds is considered to be particularly relevant in the European Community. Through the Nitrate Directive the EU countries must define the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs), develop protocols of good agricultural practice and set up action programs for the management of farm manure.
In addition, the European water bodies should reach a "good status" chemical (and quantitative) within 2015.
In Sardinia, it has been already identified a NVZ of agricultural origin (Arborea), along with several areas that are potentially vulnerable to nitrates. However, further studies are necessary to identify the source of contamination, either from excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizers or from farm manure. Moreover, it is important to quantify the impact of natural sources of nitrogen compounds on the aquatic system.
In this context, the present research aims to implement the knowledge on nitrate flow in groundwater. In particular:
a) evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of geochemical and isotopic tracers (oxygen-18, deuterium, nitrogen-15, sulphur-34 and boron-11) as indicators for the definition of the groundwater recharge areas and the identification of nitrate pollution sources in NVZ of Arborea and Nurra;
b) define, by means of mathematical models, the relationship between agricultural practices and the water quality that contributes to recharge the aquifers;
c) test innovative and integrated techniques aimed to define adequate protocols for detection, monitoring and processing of qualitative and quantitative parameters of water resources.
The project will last three years. The expected results will be achieved through an integration of geochemical, hydrogeological and agronomical skills available among the research partners. Beside, the project will benefit of scientific collaborations by the side of national and international experts in the field of this research.
The research topic is part of a wider issue of desertification induced by anthropogenic pressures and focuses on the study of some geochemical -biological-physical processes that contribute to the quality degradation of groundwater resource. The results achieved through the project, will be fundamental for planning appropriate actions for reducing the contamination by nitrate, and monitoring programs directed to the protection of water bodies in order to promote a sustainable use of regional water resources.

Title and acronym: Know - implementing the Knowledge of NitrOgen in groundWater

Dates: from July 2012 to June 2015

Location: Sardinia

Source of Funding: Sardinian Regional Government, L.R. 7

Role of NRD: partner

NRD Scientific responsible: Prof. G. Ghiglieri

NRD members and staff involved: Dott. A. Carletti, Dott.ssa C. Demurtas, Dott. D. Pittalis, Dott.ssa G. Seddaiu, Prof. P.P. Roggero, Dott.ssa Roberta Lobina, Dott.ssa Anna Paola Dessena

Keywords: nitrato, isotopi stabili, idrogeologi