Variations in dissolved nitrate, chloride, and sulfate in precipitation, reservoir, and tap waters, Columbus, Ohio


Urban potable waters can be very susceptible to human activities that can impact water quality and, hence, public health. Columbus, Ohio, is currently the 14th largest city in the United States with an estimated population of ~860,000. Much of the urban population receives its water supply from a series of reservoirs located north of the city proper. These reservoirs are fed by river systems that drain either large agricultural lands, or rapidly growing suburban areas, or both. The agricultural activities introduce dissolved nitrate, and increased usage of de-icing salts on roads and highways within the drainage area introduce chloride into the river/reservoir systems. High nitrate in drinking water poses a potential health risk, particularly to infants, while high chloride, applied as halite, in drinking water can aid in the development of cardiovascular disease. In this work, we present a 19-month time series measuring nitrate, chloride, and sulfate in local precipitation, reservoir and household tap waters in order to better understand the relationship of the hydrologic residence time on the tap water chemistry, as well as to evaluate the anion concentrations. The highest chloride tap water concentration, 6.9 mM, occurred in early February 2011, while increases in nitrate occurred in both early summer and the middle of winter. In general, the anion concentrations in the precipitation are all equal to or lower than the reservoir waters. Similarly, the tap water had concentrations of chloride and sulfate higher than reservoir water, while nitrate was similar to reservoir water. Tap water had higher fluoride and sulfate concentrations, suggesting that they are added during the treatment of the reservoir water prior to residential distribution. These data clearly demonstrate the importance of watershed lands on the quality of water in the human distribution system.

Publication Title

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health