Temporal variability of groundwater chemistry in shallow and deep aquifers of Araihazar, Bangladesh

R.K. Dhar, Y. Zheng, M. Stute, A. Van Geen, Z. Cheng, M. Shanewaz, M. Shamsudduha, M.A. Hoque, M.w. Rahman, K.m. Ahmed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Samples were collected every 2–4 weeks from a set of 37 monitoring wells over a period of 2–3 years in Araihazar, Bangladesh, to evaluate the temporal variability of groundwater composition for As and other constituents. The monitoring wells are grouped in 6 nests and span the 5–91 m depth range. Concentrations of As, Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, P, and S were measured by high-resolution ICPMS with a precision of 5% or better; concentrations of Cl were measured by ion chromatography. In shallow wells <30 m deep, As and P concentrations generally varied by <30%, whereas concentrations of the major ions (Na, K, Mg, Ca and Cl) and the redox-sensitive elements (Fe, Mn, and S) varied over time by up to ± 90%. In wells tapping the deeper aquifers > 30 m often below clay layers concentrations of groundwater As were much lower and varied by <10%. The concentrations of major cations also varied by <10% in these deep aquifers. In contrast, the concentration of redox-sensitive constituents Fe, S, and Mn in deep aquifers varied by up to 97% over time. Thus, strong decoupling between variations in As and Fe concentrations is evident in groundwaters from shallow and deep aquifers.

Comparison of the time series data with groundwater ages determined by 3H/3He and 14C dating shows that large seasonal or inter-annual variations in major cation and chloride concentrations are restricted to shallow aquifers and groundwater recharged < 5 years ago. There is no corresponding change in As concentrations despite having significant variations of redox sensitive constituents in these very young waters. This is attributed to chemical buffering due to rapid equilibrium between solute and solid As. At two sites where the As content of groundwater in existing shallow wells averages 102 µg/L (range: < 5 to 648 µg/L; n=118) and 272 µg/L (range: 10 to 485 µg/L; n=65), respectively, a systematic long-term decline in As concentrations lends support to the notion that flushing may slowly deplete an aquifer of As. Shallow aquifer water with > 5 yr 3H/3He age show a constant As:P molar ratio of 9.6 over time, suggesting common mechanism of mobilization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-111
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


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