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Ground Water Vulnerability Assessment: Contamination Potential Under Conditions of Uncertainty
sampling design, the GWVIP score at each of the sample points can be statistically aggregated for making comparisons among regions.
Since the GWVIP is an extension of a screening procedure, it is designed to minimize the likelihood of incorrectly identifying an area as having a low potential for contamination—that is, false negatives are minimized and false positives are tolerated. The GWVIP is designed to classify an area as having a potential problem even if the likelihood is small.
GWVIP scores were graphically displayed after embedding them in a national cartographic database consisting of 13,172 polygons created by overlaying the boundaries of 3,041 counties, 189 Major Land Resource Areas (MLRAs), 2,111 hydrologic units, and federal lands.
Three caveats are especially important in using the GWVIP and its aggregates as a decision aid:
Land use data are for 1982 and do not represent current cropping patterns in some parts of the country. Although total cropland acreage has remained fairly stable over the past 10 years, there has been a pronounced shift from harvested cropland to cropland idled in government programs.
The approach uses a simulation model that predicts the amount of chemical that leaches past the root zone. In areas where the water table is near the surface, these predictions relate directly to shallow ground water contamination. In other areas a time lag is involved. No adjustment was made for areas with deep water tables.
No adjustment in chemical use is made to account for farm management factors, such as chemical application rates and crop rotations. The approach assumes that chemical use is the same for a crop grown as part of a rotation cropping system as for continuous cropping. Since the chemical use variable in the GWVIP calculation is based on acres of land treated with pesticides, application rates are also not factored into the analysis.
Application to Program Management
By identifying areas of the country that have the highest potential for leaching of agrichemicals, the GWVIP can serve as a basis for selecting sites for implementation of government programs and for more in-depth research on the environmental impact of agrichemical use. These sites cannot be selected exclusively on the basis of the GWVIP score, however, because other factors, such as surface water impacts and economic and demographic factors, are also important.
For example, the GWVIP has been used as a decision aid in selecting sites for USDA's Area Study Program, which is designed to provide chemical use and farming practice information to aid in understanding the relationships among farming activities, soil properties, and ground water quality.