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01.03.2015 | Thematic Issue | Ausgabe 6/2015

Environmental Earth Sciences 6/2015

Assessment of groundwater contamination in an agricultural peri-urban area (NW Portugal): an integrated approach

Zeitschrift:
Environmental Earth Sciences > Ausgabe 6/2015
Autoren:
M. F. Barroso, M. J. Ramalhosa, A. Olhero, M. C. Antão, M. F. Pina, L. Guimarães, J. Teixeira, M. J. Afonso, C. Delerue-Matos, H. I. Chaminé

Abstract

The excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers in agriculture has generated a decrease in groundwater and surface water quality in many regions of the EU, constituting a hazard for human health and the environment. Besides, on-site sewage disposal is an important source of groundwater contamination in urban and peri-urban areas. The assessment of groundwater vulnerability to contamination is an important tool to fulfil the demands of EU Directives. The purpose of this study is to assess the groundwater vulnerability to contamination related mainly to agricultural activities in a peri-urban area (Vila do Conde, NW Portugal). The hydrogeological framework is characterised mainly by fissured granitic basement and sedimentary cover. Water samples were collected and analysed for temperature, pH, electrical conductivity, chloride, phosphate, nitrate and nitrite. An evaluation of groundwater vulnerability to contamination was applied (GOD-S, Pesticide DRASTIC-Fm, SINTACS and SI) and the potential nitrate contamination risk was assessed, both on a hydrogeological GIS-based mapping. A principal component analysis was performed to characterised patterns of relationship among groundwater contamination, vulnerability, and the hydrogeological setting assessed. Levels of nitrate above legislation limits were detected in 75 % of the samples analysed. Alluvia units showed the highest nitrate concentrations and also the highest vulnerability and risk. Nitrate contamination is a serious problem affecting groundwater, particularly shallow aquifers, especially due to agriculture activities, livestock and cesspools. GIS-based cartography provided an accurate way to improve knowledge on water circulation models and global functioning of local aquifer systems. Finally, this study highlights the adequacy of an integrated approach, combining hydrogeochemical data, vulnerability assessments and multivariate analysis, to understand groundwater processes in peri-urban areas.

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