Ray pioneers groundwater contamination research

Ray pioneers groundwater contamination research

Calendar Icon Aug 02, 2018      Person Bust Icon By Keith McGuffey     RSS Feed RSS

Dr. Ray's research will look at chemical leaching and subsoil injection of carbon.
Dr. Ray's research will look at chemical leaching and subsoil injection of carbon.

The Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) has awarded funding to Dr. Chittaranjan Ray, professor of civil engineering and Director of the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, for two research projects to study approaches for improving our groundwater.

The funds will continue Dr. Ray’s research using geographic information system (GIS) mapping to help characterize the leaching of chemicals through soil. This project, titled “Spatial index for leachability of agrochemicals in Nebraska”, will map areas of Nebraska based on the ability of certain chemicals to leach into Nebraska’s water table. The mapping will help visualize which areas of Nebraska are most susceptible to chemical leaching and what chemicals have high leaching potential. This project was initially funded in 2016.

NET’s funding will also launch a new research project, “Novel approaches for controlling nitrate leaching and protecting Nebraska groundwater,” which will look at new approaches for managing nitrate losses. Although essential a necessary nutrient for plans, nitrate is the most common groundwater contaminate. Nitrate contamination is typically mitigated through nitrogen and irrigation water management, and there are few alternatives exist to treat nitrate lost from the crops. This project will look at subsoil injection of carbon - the pumping of sawdust and wood shavings into the soil. The injection creates a biologically active layer that intercepts nitrate as it moves from crop roots through the soil.

The overall goal for this project is to offer a cost-effective method for producers and Nebraska Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) for reducing nitrate leaching beneath fertilized cropland in areas that are most vulnerable to ground-water contamination. Dr. Ray will be working with a team including Dr. Daniel Snow of the University of Nebraska Water Sciences Laboratory, Dr. Amy Schmidt from the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, and Daniel Miller of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. More information is available on the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute’s website.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $289 million in grants to over 2,000 projects across the state.