U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



Water Research 46 (2012) 4949-4960; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2012.06.023


Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) often use anaerobic lagoons for manure treatment. In the USA, swine CAFO lagoon water is used for crop irrigation that is regulated by farm-specific nutrient management plans (NMPs). Implementation of stricter US environmental regulations in 2013 will set soil P limits; impacting land applications of manure and requiring revision of NMPs. Precise knowledge of lagoon water quality is needed for formulating NMPs, for understanding losses of N and C in ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions, and for understanding risks of environmental contamination by fecal bacteria, including zoonotic pathogens. In this study we determined year-round levels of nutrients and bacteria from swine CAFO lagoon water. Statistical analysis of data for pH, electrical conductivity (EC), inorganic and organic C, total N, water-soluble and total minerals (Ca, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, P, and Zn) and bacteria (Escherichia coli, enterococci, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter spp., Listeria spp., Salmonella spp., and staphylococci) showed that all differed significantly by dates of collection. During the irrigation season, levels of total N decreased by half and the N:P ratio changed from 9.7 to 2.8. Some seasonal differences were correlated with temperature. Total N and inorganic C increased below 19°C, and decreased above 19°C, consistent with summer increases in ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions. Water-soluble Cu, Fe, and Zn increased with higher summer temperatures while enterococci and zoonotic pathogens (Campylobacter, Listeria, and Salmonella) decreased. Although their populations changed seasonally, the zoonotic pathogens were present year-round. Increasing levels of E. coli were statistically correlated with increasing pH. Differences between depths were also found. Organic C, total nutrients (C, Ca, Cu, Fe, Mg, Mn, N, P, and Zn) and C. perfringens were higher in deeper samples, indicating stratification of these parameters. No statistical interactions were found between collection dates and depths.