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


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in J. Environ. Qual. (2012) 41: 1557-1565. DOI:10.2134/jeq2011.0301


The Raccoon River Watershed in Iowa has received considerable attention in the recent past due to frequent detections of nitrate concentrations above the federal drinking water standard. This paper econometrically investigates the determinants of variation of nitrate concentrations in the Raccoon River. The analysis relies on a generalized autoregressive conditional heteroscedastic process to model the serial dependence of volatility of the monthly nitrate concentrations in the Raccoon River. Monthly nitrate concentration data from Des Moines Water Works at Van Meter from 1992 to 2008 are used in the study. We found no statistically significant increasing trend in nitrate concentrations over the study period. There are substantial intra-annual variations in nitrate concentrations, and we noted a very strong seasonal pattern. Variations in rainfall and temperature contribute more to the monthly variation in nitrate concentration than do the changes in nitrogen application rates.