Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Quality
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: August 28, 2002
Publication Date: April 1, 2003
Citation: Tomer, M.D., Meek, D.W., Jaynes, D.B., Hatfield, J.L. 2003. Evaluation of nitrate-n fluxes from a tile-drained watershed in central Iowa. Journal of Environmental Quality. Poster No. 19. Technical Abstract: Nitrate-N fluxes from tile-drained watersheds have been implicated in water quality studies of the Mississippi basin, but actual NO3-N loads from small-order watersheds over a long period are poorly documented. We evaluated discharge and NO3-N fluxes from an Iowa watershed (5134 ha) from mid-1992 through 2000, including the outlet and two tile-drained sub-basins (493 and 863 ha). The total NO3-N load from the catchment was 168 kg ha**-1, and 176 and 229 kg ha**-1 from the sub-basins. The outlet had greater total discharge (1831 mm), and smaller flow-weighted mean NO3-N concentration (9.2 mg L**-1) than the sub-basins, while the larger sub-basin had greater discharge (1712 vs. 1559 mm) and mean NO3-N concentration (13.4 vs. 11.4 mg L**-1) than the smaller sub-basin. Concentrations exceeding 10 mg L**-1 were common, but least frequent at the outlet. Nitrate-N was generally not diluted by large flows, except during 1993 flooding. The outlet, in fact, showed smaller NO3-N concentrations at low flows. Relationships between discharge and NO3-N flux showed log-log slopes near 1.0 for the sub-basins, and 1.2 for the outlet, considering autocorrelation and measurement-error effects. We estimated denitrification of sub-basin NO3-N fluxes in a hypothetical wetland using published data. Assuming temperature and NO3-N supply could limit denitrification, then about 20% of the NO3-N load would have been denitrified by a wetland constructed to meet USDA-approved criteria. The low fraction largely results from non-dilution of NO3-N by large flows. Agricultural and wetland BMPs are needed to achieve water quality goals in tile-drained watersheds.