Vulnerability of low-arsenic aquifers to municipal pumping in Bangladesh

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Sandy aquifers deposited >12,000 years ago, some as shallow as 30 m, have provided a reliable supply of low-arsenic (As) drinking water in rural Bangladesh. This study concerns the potential risk of contaminating these aquifers in areas surrounding the city of Dhaka where hydraulic heads in aquifers >150 m deep have dropped by 70 m in a few decades due to municipal pumping. Water levels measured continuously from 2012 to 2014 in 12 deep (>150 m), 3 intermediate (90-150 m) and 6 shallow (<90 m) community wells, 1 shallow private well, and 1 river piezometer show that the resulting drawdown cone extends 15-35 km east of Dhaka. Water levels in 4 low-As community wells within the 62-147 m depth range closest to Dhaka were inaccessible by suction for up to a third of the year. Lateral hydraulic gradients in the deep aquifer system ranged from 1.7 × 10-4 to 3.7 × 10-4 indicating flow towards Dhaka throughout 2012-2014. Vertical recharge on the edge of the drawdown cone was estimated at 0.21 ± 0.06 m/yr. The data suggest that continued municipal pumping in Dhaka could eventually contaminate some relatively shallow community wells.




Knappett, P. S. K., Mailloux, B. J., Choudhury, I., Khan, M. R., Michael, H. A., Barua, S., … van Geen, A. (2016). Vulnerability of low-arsenic aquifers to municipal pumping in Bangladesh. Journal of Hydrology, 539, 674–686.

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