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Review
, 46 (7), 2023-41

The Potential for a Suite of Isotope and Chemical Markers to Differentiate Sources of Nitrate Contamination: A Review

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Review

The Potential for a Suite of Isotope and Chemical Markers to Differentiate Sources of Nitrate Contamination: A Review

C Fenech et al. Water Res.

Abstract

Nitrate is naturally found within the environment as part of the nitrogen cycle. However, anthropogenic inputs have greatly increased nitrate loads within ground and surface waters. This has had a severe impact on aquatic ecosystems and has given rise to health considerations in humans and livestock. Therefore, the identification of nitrate sources is important in preserving water quality and achieving sustainability of our water resources. Nitrate sources can be determined based on the nitrate nitrogen (N) and oxygen (O) isotopic compositions (δ(15)N, δ(18)O). However, sewage and manure have overlapping δ(15)N and δ(18)O values making their differentiation on this basis problematic. The specific differentiation between sources of faecal contamination is of particular importance, because the risk to humans is usually considered higher from human faecal contamination (sewage) than from animal faecal contamination. This review summarises the current state of knowledge in using isotope tracers to differentiate various nitrate sources and identifies potential chemical tracers for differentiating sewage and manure. In particular, an in depth review of the current state of knowledge regarding the necessary considerations in using chemical markers, such as pharmaceuticals and food additives, to differentiate sewage and manure sources of nitrate contamination will be given, through an understanding of their use, occurrence and fate, in order to identify the most suitable potential chemical markers.

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