Determination of the sources of nitrate and the microbiological sources of pollution in the Sava River Basin

Janja Vrzel, Branka Vuković-Gačić, Stoimir Kolarević, Zoran Gačić, Margareta Kračun-Kolarević, Jovana Kostić, Mustafa Aborgiba, Andreas Farnleitner, Georg Reischer, Rita Linke, Momir Paunović, Nives Ogrinc*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

62 Citations (Scopus)


Coupled measurements of nitrate (NO3), nitrogen (N), and oxygen (O) isotopic composition (δ15NNO3 and δ18ONO3) were used to investigate the sources and processes of N cycling, while the microbial source tracking (MST) method was used to identify microbiological pollution in the surface water of the Sava River Basin (SRB) in autumn in 2014 and 2015 during high and low water discharge. Atmospheric nitrate deposition or nitrate-containing fertilizers were found not to be significant sources of riverine nitrate in the SRB. The ranges of isotope values suggest that NO3 in the SRB derives from soil nitrification, sewage, and/or manure, which were further supported by MST analysis. Microbiological indicators show the existence of hotspots of fecal pollution in the SRB, which are human associated. Long-term observations indicate persistent fecal contamination at selected locations caused by continuous discharge of untreated wastewaters into the SRB.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1460-1471
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Fecal indicators
  • Microbial source tracking
  • Nutrients
  • Sava River Basin
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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