The nitrogen loads entering the surface waters in Germany via the groundwater path were quantified. For this purpose, the results of a nitrogen balance model (Bach et al., 2000), which considers the most important N-inputs to the soil (manure, inorganic fertiliser, atmospheric deposition) and N-removals from the soil through crop harvest, were combined with the groundwater residence time/denitrification model WEKU (Kunkel and Wendland, 1997; Wendland et al., 2001). The modelled groundwater-borne nitrogen inputs into surface waters were validated using results from the MONERIS model (Behrendt et al., 2000) concerning riverine nitrogen retention, nitrogen inputs from point sources as well as nitrogen inputs through direct run-off (drainage etc.). In the vicinity of surface waters and in solid rock areas, the groundwater borne nitrogen inputs into surface waters are considerably high compared to the inputs into the aquifer due to predominantly unfavourable de-nitrification conditions and short residence times of groundwater. In the North German lowlands, however, the groundwater-borne nitrate inputs into surface waters are considerably low compared to the inputs into the aquifer. There, the residence time of groundwater in the aquifer is high and the groundwater is predominantly oxygen free and contains pyrite and/or organic carbon compounds, allowing a halving of the nitrate loads in the groundwater within a period of 1 to 4 years (see Wendland and Kunkel, 1999).

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