Water-quality and hydrologic information were collected along ground-water flow paths from two well-drained and two poorly drained Coastal Plain settings in North Carolina to evaluate the relative effectiveness of riparian buffers in reducing discharge of nitrate to streams. At one well-drained site with a 100 m buffer, little or no effect was detected on surface-water quality by discharging ground water because extensive woody vegetation in the buffer was able to take up not only most nitrate, but also most ground water before discharging to the stream during the growing season (March-October). At the second well-drained site, ground water discharging to the stream from the side with a buffer contained about 2 mg/L of nitrate-nitrogen after passing through the bed of the stream compared to 6 mg/L in ground water discharging from the side with no buffer. In the poorly drained settings, nitrate in ground water decreased from about 6 mg/L in the recharge area to less than 0.02 mg/L downgradient from the riparian buffer. Ground water discharging from the side with no buffer contained 0.83 mg/L. Riparian buffers appear effective in reducing nitrate in ground water discharging to Coastal Plain streams.

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