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Groundwater sustainability challenges revealed by quantification of contaminated groundwater volume and aquifer depletion in hard rock aquifer systems

Abstract : The lack of comprehensive studies involving the quantification of groundwater depletion and aquifer deterioration has challenged the sustainable management of groundwater resources in semi-arid regions. In this study, we formulated a new pragmatic relationship consisting of a set of equations to quantify contaminated groundwater volume and groundwater virtually lost through contamination. We also used extensive monitoring of the hydraulic head and its spatio-temporal variations as well as groundwater modeling to quantify total aquifer volume, aquifer storage, and aquifer depletion. The watershed is divided into three distinct zones based on groundwater level fluctuations and recharge (Intermediate Borewell Zone-IBW, Random Borewell Zone- RBW, and Slow Borewell Zone-SBW zones). This study provides an advanced understanding of the relationship between aquifer depletion, geogenic contamination and the resultant virtual groundwater loss. Our long-term study reveals a negative change in storage/groundwater loss in poor monsoon years and a reduction in total groundwater volume which can result in aquifer depletion over time and low groundwater reserves. The decadal estimations of groundwater gain/loss for a period of ten years (2001-2010) in the IBW zone of the aquifer show a groundwater gain of 3.03 mcm (million cubic metes) but at the same time, this zone has virtually lost 1.06 mcm to contamination. Similarly, 1.3 mcm gain is estimated in the RBW zone and 0.53 mcm loss of groundwater is estimated in the SBW. The virtual groundwater losses through contamination in RBW and SBW zones are 4.5 mcm and 16 mcm. In such a situation an aquifer depletion stage beyond an economic level will be reached in most of the watershed in a few years. The contamination in these years is also high which may result in virtual loss through contamination. Under such conditions, the groundwater resource may be conditionally renewable as a part of the groundwater volume remains contaminated and unusable. These results highlight the need to understand the interconnection between groundwater contamination and continued over-exploitation which gradually moves towards aquifer depletion and conditionally renewable groundwater resources.
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Submitted on : Friday, August 5, 2022 - 11:54:59 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, September 28, 2022 - 4:20:11 PM

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Sarah Sarah, Shakeel Ahmed, Sophie Violette, Ghislain de Marsily. Groundwater sustainability challenges revealed by quantification of contaminated groundwater volume and aquifer depletion in hard rock aquifer systems. Journal of Hydrology, 2021, 597, ⟨10.1016/j.jhydrol.2021.126286⟩. ⟨insu-03746426⟩

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