Mapping the potential human health implications of groundwater pollution in southern Sri Lanka

Rajasooriyar, Lorraine D., Boelee, Eline, Prado, Mauro C. C. M. and Hiscock, Kevin M. ORCID: (2013) Mapping the potential human health implications of groundwater pollution in southern Sri Lanka. Water Resources and Rural Development, 1-2. pp. 27-42. ISSN 2212-6082

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In southern Sri Lanka, irrigation influences the concentrations of faecal bacteria and inorganic toxic contaminants in groundwater. We develop a groundwater vulnerability map describing the potential human health implications of harmful constituents in the Uda Walawe Basin, by overlaying geological and land use data with information describing the irrigation system, the oxygen isotope composition of water bodies, and the concentrations of selected contaminants. Given the limited data available, we examine the spatial distribution of harmful constituents and the potential human health risks. Fluoride poisoning from groundwater is the greatest health threat in our study area, where fluoride concentrations ranging from 0.1 to 9.2. mg/L are associated with a geologic origin. Arsenic occurs in high concentrations, up to 0.4. mg/L, in areas with low recharge, although the source of arsenic is not clear. Nitrate concentrations are low, ranging from 0.4 to 23. mg/L, despite high fertilizer inputs, except in areas with low recharge and non-favourable reducing conditions, where concentrations up to 136. mg/L are found. Faecal bacteria decrease from surface water via shallow groundwater to deep groundwater. Irrigation water appears to play a major role in increasing microbial contamination and diluting inorganic constituents in groundwater. Hence, the most important determinants for mapping groundwater vulnerability are local geology and infiltration of irrigation water. The method we present provides a qualitative, yet practical, alternative to commonly used vulnerability mapping techniques for countries where high human health risk via consumption of groundwater is inevitable, and thus acts as a tool for selecting preventive and curative measures.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: This study was funded by the Association of Commonwealth Universities , the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) , and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) (Grant 100107 ). The authors are grateful to various individuals for their help during data collection and data analysis, in particular to Tim Atkinson, Wim van der Hoek, Aidan Foley, Rebecca Shortt, H.A. Dharmagunewardene, A. Senaratne, A.D. Ranjith, the National Water Supply and Drainage Board , and the Water Resources Board of Sri Lanka . We appreciate also the helpful comments of two anonymous reviewers.
Uncontrolled Keywords: arsenic,crystalline rock aquifers,fluoride,irrigation,nitrate,vulnerability map,geography, planning and development,development,water science and technology,sdg 2 - zero hunger,sdg 3 - good health and well-being,sdg 15 - life on land ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/3300/3305
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Geosciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Centres > Water Security Research Centre
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2022 10:31
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2023 14:34
DOI: 10.1016/j.wrr.2013.10.002

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