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High nitrate in groundwater is a serious problem especially in highly active agricultural areas. In this paper, the concentration and spatial distribution of groundwater nitrate in cropland area in the North China Plain were assessed by statistical and geostatistical techniques. Nitrate concentration in groundwater reached a maximum of 526.58 mg/L, and 47.2%, 21.33% and 11.13% of samples had levels in excess of nitrate safety threshold concentration (50 mg/L) in shallow, middle-deep and deep groundwater, respectively. And NO3- content significantly decreased with groundwater depth. Groundwater nitrate concentrations under vegetable area are significantly higher than ones under grain and orchard. And there are great differences in spatial distribution of nitrate in the North China Plain and pollution hotspot areas are mainly in Shandong Province. Based on both multiple regressions combined with principal component analysis (PCA), significant variables for nitrate variation in three types of ground water were found: population per unit area, percentage of vegetable area, percentage of grain crop area, livestock per unit area, annual precipitation and annual mean temperature for shallow groundwater; population per unit area and percentage of vegetable area for middle-deep groundwater; percentage of vegetable area, percentage of grain crop area and livestock per unit area for deep groundwater.


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