Natural Resources Research

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 109–119 | Cite as

The Use of the Weights-of-Evidence Modeling Technique to Estimate the Vulnerability of Groundwater to Nitrate Contamination

  • M. Masetti
  • S. Poli
  • S. Sterlacchini


The occurrence of elevated nitrate (NO 3 ) concentration in the aquifer of the Province of Milan (northern Italy) is related to both natural and anthropogenic variables. Using the weights-of-evidence modeling technique a specific vulnerability assessment has been performed. This study presents an evolution of previous applications of the proposed methodology as a consequence of an updating of the available database, in terms of data type, quality, and accuracy, and of a more specific and enhanced statistical controls onto the final results.

A comparison between the spatial distribution of vulnerability classes and the frequency of occurrences of nitrate in wells shows a high degree of correlation, both for low and high nitrate concentration. Similar results may be evidenced considering the correlation between posterior probability classes and mean nitrate concentrations in wells located in each of these classes: a high R 2 value (0.99) and the agreement with the threshold concentration value used to define prior probability testifies a general good quality of results. Groundwater-specific vulnerability has been classified in terms of vulnerability classes and, according to the outcomes of the model, the density of population can be considered the most impacting source of nitrate. Mean annual irrigation and groundwater depth can be identified as influencing factors in the distribution of nitrate, while agricultural practice appears a negligible factor.


Aquifer vulnerability nitrate weights-of-evidence 



The authors would like to thank Jonathan Arthur from Florida Geological Survey and Gary Lee Raines from United States Geological Survey for comments and suggestions on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Mathematical Geology 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of MilanMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science (DISAT)University of Milan-BicoccaMilanItaly
  3. 3.Institute for the Dynamic of Environmental ProcessesNational Research Council (CNR-IDPA)MilanItaly

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