We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Sources and transport of nitrogen in arid urban watersheds.

Hale, Rebecca and Turnbull, Laura and Earl, Stevan and Grimm, Nancy and Riha, Krystin and Michalski, Greg and Lohse, Kathleen and Childers, Dan (2014) 'Sources and transport of nitrogen in arid urban watersheds.', Environmental science and technology., 48 (11). pp. 6211-6219.


Urban watersheds are often sources of nitrogen (N) to downstream systems, contributing to poor water quality. However, it is unknown which components (e.g., land cover and stormwater infrastructure type) of urban watersheds contribute to N export and which may be sites of retention. In this study we investigated which watershed characteristics control N sourcing, biogeochemical processing of nitrate (NO3–) during storms, and the amount of rainfall N that is retained within urban watersheds. We used triple isotopes of NO3– (δ15N, δ18O, and Δ17O) to identify sources and transformations of NO3– during storms from 10 nested arid urban watersheds that varied in stormwater infrastructure type and drainage area. Stormwater infrastructure and land cover—retention basins, pipes, and grass cover—dictated the sourcing of NO3– in runoff. Urban watersheds were strong sinks or sources of N to stormwater depending on runoff, which in turn was inversely related to retention basin density and positively related to imperviousness and precipitation. Our results suggest that watershed characteristics control the sources and transport of inorganic N in urban stormwater but that retention of inorganic N at the time scale of individual runoff events is controlled by hydrologic, rather than biogeochemical, mechanisms.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This document is the Accepted Manuscript version of a Published Work that appeared in final form in Environmental Science and Technology, copyright © American Chemical Society after peer review and technical editing by the publisher. To access the final edited and published work see
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:27 October 2014
Date of first online publication:June 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar