A high-resolution nitrate vulnerability assessment of sandy aquifers (DRASTIC-N)

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Groundwater protection against agricultural diffuse nitrate pollution is of paramount importance for safeguarding groundwater-dependent aquatic ecosystems and protecting human health by securing clean groundwater for drinking water production. Nitrate vulnerability assessment of aquifers is the core of a scientifically sound strategy for management and protection of groundwater by authorities. A multitude of methods exists for assessing intrinsic aquifer vulnerability. The objective of this paper is to develop a nitrate-specific groundwater vulnerability assessment method based on the globally recognized DRASTIC method, which was developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency in the 1980s. We propose a new method “DRASTIC-N″ for assessing aquifer nitrate vulnerability, which for the first time expands the seven original geological and hydrogeological parameters with a geochemical parameter for redox condition. The development of DRASTIC-N is based on the longstanding Danish practice of performing detailed groundwater mapping based on dense sampling of geophysical, geological, and geochemical data. DRASTIC-N is compared to the widely used and documented Danish nitrate vulnerability assessment method SCANVA in a study area where the primary aquifer used for drinking water production is composed of heterogeneous sandy glacial deposits. Both SCANVA and DRASTIC-N result in vulnerability maps, which show similar patterns of nitrate vulnerability with a fair overall agreement of 71%. DRASTIC-N provides a framework for systematic and transparent application, which can facilitate stakeholder involvement and help authorities in groundwater protection and decision-making with regards to nitrate pollution. DRASTIC-N is suitable for nitrate vulnerability assessments of glacially deposited sandy aquifers, an abundant and important water resource worldwide, potentially threatened by nitrate pollution from anthropogenic activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111330
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Groundwater vulnerability
  • Nitrate vulnerability
  • Redox interface

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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