In Germany, modelled nitrate concentrations in the leachate are of great importance for the development of scenarios for the long-term achievement of the groundwater quality target according to the specific requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive as well as within the context of the recently adopted general administrative regulation for the designation of nitrate-polluted areas in Germany. For the German federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Rhineland-Palatinate (RLP), an area-covering modelling of mean long-term nitrate concentrations in leachate with high spatial resolution was carried out using the model system RAUMIS-mGROWA-DENUZ. Hotspot regions with nitrate concentrations in the leachate of 50 mg NO3
/L and more were identified for intensively farmed areas in the Münsterland, Lower Rhine, and Vorderpfalz. The validity of modelled values was checked using measured values from 1119 preselected monitoring stations from shallow springs and aquifers filtered near to the surface with oxidizing properties. For the land use categories of urban areas, arable land, grassland, and forest, an at least good agreement of modelled nitrate concentrations in the leachate and measured nitrate concentrations in groundwater was obtained at numerous sites. An equally good agreement was obtained for 1461 measuring stations from the area of responsibility of the Erftverband, which is a major water supplier in the Lower Rhine region. Here, discrepancies have been analyzed in detail due to profound regional knowledge on observation sites. It turned out that in most cases, accuracy limitations of input data (e.g., N balance surpluses of agriculture at the municipal level, 1:50,000 soil map) have been the reason for larger deviations between observed and modelled values. In a broader sense, the case study has shown on the one hand that the model system RAUMIS-mGROWA-DENUZ is able to reliably represent interrelationships and influencing factors that determine simulated nitrate concentrations in the leachate. On the other hand, it has been proven that observed nitrate concentrations in groundwater may provide a solid data source for checking the plausibility of modelled nitrate concentrations in leachate in cases where certain preselection criteria are applied.
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