Home Archived April 13, 2016
(i)

U.S. Geological Survey

Maps, Imagery, and Publications Hazards Newsroom Education Jobs Partnerships Library About USGS Social Media

USGS Newsroom

USGS Newsroom  
 

Concentrations of Nitrous Oxide in the Central High Plains Aquifer Are Increasing
Released: 1/2/2001

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Kevin Dennehy 1-click interview
Phone: (303) 236-4882 | FAX: (303) 236-4912




Nitrous oxide is an important atmospheric trace gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect and the destruction of ozone. Researchers hypothesize that one important source of atmospheric nitrous oxide is ground water, yet few studies have tested this hypothesis. Concentrations of nitrous oxide in ground water from the central High Plains aquifer, in parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, are increasing, according to a recently released report, "Occurrence of Nitrous Oxide in the Central High Plains Aquifer, 1999." Well pumping for irrigation, public supply, and domestic uses is the primary mechanism for ground-water discharge from the aquifer, and pumping is one mechanism for transferring nitrous oxide from the aquifer to the atmosphere.

"The average concentration of nitrous oxide in water that recharged the aquifer since the 1950’s is about twice as large as the average nitrous oxide concentration in water that recharged the aquifer prior to the 1950’s," said Peter McMahon, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist and lead author of the report. Eighty percent of the water samples collected for the study contained nitrous oxide above background concentrations. The ground water most enriched in nitrous oxide occurs near the water table, whereas deep water from the aquifer is relatively old and contains less nitrous oxide. Despite the increase in nitrous oxide concentrations in the central High Plains aquifer, the aquifer is not thought to be a significant source of atmospheric nitrous oxide at this time because most pumping wells in the study area remove the deeper water that is not enriched in nitrous oxide.

The report, "Occurrence of Nitrous Oxide in the Central High Plains Aquifer, 1999," by P.B. McMahon, B.W. Bruce, M.F. Becker, L.M. Pope, and K.F. Dennehy was published in the December, 2000 issue (volume 34) of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.


The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

Subscribe to receive the latest USGS news releases.

**** www.usgs.gov ****

Links and contacts within this release are valid at the time of publication.


 

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=534
Page Contact Information: Ask USGS
Page Last Modified: 1/11/2005