Elevated nitrate levels in the groundwater of the Gaza Strip: Distribution and sources

Basem Shomar, Karsten Osenbrück, Alfred Yahya

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Seven years of monitoring groundwater in the Gaza Strip has shown that nitrate was and still is a major groundwater pollutant. The objectives of this research were to study the distribution of NO3 - in the groundwater of the Gaza Strip and to identify the sources of NO3 - in the Gaza aquifer system by assessing nitrogen and oxygen isotopes. The most recent samples collected in 2007 showed 90% of the wells having NO3 - concentrations that are several times higher than the WHO standards of 50 mg/L. Potential NO3 - source materials in Gaza are animal manure N, synthetic NH4 based fertilizers, and wastewater/sludge. The average concentrations of N in the sludge, manure and soil of Gaza were 2.9%, 1% and 0.08%, respectively. The range in δ15N of solid manure samples was + 7.5 to + 11.9‰. The range in δ15N of sludge samples was + 4.6 to + 7.4‰, while four brands of synthetic fertilizers commonly used in Gaza had δ15N ranging from + 0.2 to + 1.0‰. Sludge amended soil had δ15N ranging from + 2.0 to + 7.3‰. For both δ18O and δ15N, the ranges of groundwater NO3 - were - 0.1 to + 9.3‰ and + 3.2 to 12.8‰, respectively. No significant bacterial denitrification is taking place in the Gaza Strip aquifer. Nitrate was predominantly derived from manure and, provided δ15N of sludge represents the maximum δ15N of human waste, to a lesser extent from septic effluents/sludge. Synthetic fertilizers were a minor source.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-174
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes



  • Gaza Strip
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrogen/oxygen isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

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