Agriculture and Groundwater Nitrate Contamination in the Seine Basin. The STICS-MODCOU modelling chain

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsLedoux, E, Gomez, E, Monget, J-M, Viavattene, C, Viennot, P, Benoit, M, Mignolet, C, Schott, C, Mary, B
JournalThe Science of the Total Environment
Start Page33
Date Published04/2007
Mots-clésagriculture, economical evaluation, hydrological modelling, nitrates, pollution, Seine river basin, water quality

A software package is presented here to predict the fate of nitrogen fertilizers and the transport of nitrate from the rooting zone of agricultural areas to surface water and groundwater in the Seine basin, taking into account the long residence times of water and nitrate in the unsaturated and aquifer systems. Information on pedological characteristics, land use and farming practices is used to determine the spatial units to be considered. These data are converted into input data for the crop model STICS which simulates the water and nitrogen balances in the soil–plant system with a daily time-step. A spatial application of STICS has been derived at the catchment scale which computes the water and nitrate fluxes at the bottom of the rooting zone. These fluxes are integrated into a surface and groundwater coupled model MODCOU which calculates the daily water balance in the hydrological system, the flow in the rivers and the piezometric variations in the aquifers, using standard climatic data (rainfall, PET). The transport of nitrate and the evolution of nitrate contamination in groundwater and to rivers is computed by the model NEWSAM. This modelling chain is a valuable tool to predict the evolution of crop productivity and nitrate contamination according to various scenarios modifying farming practices and/or climatic changes.

Data for the period 1970–2000 are used to simulate the past evolution of nitrogen contamination. The method has been validated using available data bases of nitrate concentrations in the three main aquifers of the Paris basin (Oligocene, Eocene and chalk). The approach has then been used to predict the future evolution of nitrogen contamination up to 2015. A statistical approach allowed estimating the probability of transgression of different concentration thresholds in various areas in the basin. The model is also used to evaluate the cost of the damage resulting of the treatment of drinking water at the scale of a groundwater management unit in the Seine river basin.