Developing managed aquifer recharge (MAR) to augment irrigation water resources in the sand and gravel (Crag) aquifer of coastal Suffolk, UK

Hiscock, K. M. ORCID:, Balashova, N. ORCID:, Cooper, R. J. ORCID:, Bradford, P., Patrick, J. and Hullis, M. (2024) Developing managed aquifer recharge (MAR) to augment irrigation water resources in the sand and gravel (Crag) aquifer of coastal Suffolk, UK. Journal of Environmental Management, 351. ISSN 0301-4797

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Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) offers a potential innovative solution for addressing groundwater resource issues, enabling excess surface water to be stored underground for later abstraction. Given its favourable hydrogeological properties, the Pliocene sand and gravel (Crag) aquifer in Suffolk, UK, was selected for a demonstration MAR scheme, with the goal of supplying additional summer irrigation water. The recharge source was a 4.6 km drainage channel that discharges to the River Deben estuary. Trialling the scheme in June 2022, 12,262 m3 of source water were recharged to the aquifer over 12 days via a lagoon and an array of 565 m of buried slotted pipes. Groundwater levels were raised by 0.3 m at the centre of the recharge mound with an approximate radius of 250 m, with no detrimental impact on local water features observed. The source water quality remained stable during the trial with a mean chloride concentration (133 mg L−1) below the regulatory requirement (165 mg L−1). The fraction of recharge water mixing with the groundwater ranged from 69% close to the centre and 5% at the boundary of the recharge mound, leading to a reduction in nitrate-N concentration of 23.6 mg L−1 at the centre of the mound. During July–September 2022, 12,301 m3 of recharge water were abstracted from two, 18 m boreholes to supplement surface irrigation reservoirs during drought conditions. However, the hydraulic conductivity of the Crag aquifer (∼10 m day−1) restricted the yield and thereby reduced the economic viability of the scheme. Construction costs for the MAR system were comparatively low but the high costs of data collection and securing regulatory permits brought the overall capital costs to within 18% of an equivalent surface storage reservoir, demonstrating that market-based mechanisms and more streamlined regulatory processes are required to incentivise similar MAR schemes.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Acknowledgements: The Suffolk MAR scheme was developed by the UK partners of the FRESH4Cs project funded jointly by the European Union Interreg 2 Seas Programme (2014–2020) (Project 2S06-028 FRESH4Cs) and cooperating farmers. The project was led by Felixstowe Hydrocycle Ltd in collaboration with Suffolk County Council, the Environment Agency (EA) and the University of East Anglia (UEA). Bruce Kerr of William Kerr (Farms) Ltd, Neal Smith of Home Farm (Nacton) Ltd and Andrew Williams are thanked for their help with the practical aspects of setting up and managing the MAR trial. We are grateful to Sean Hickling, Anna Sharpin and Jonathan Thompson of the EA for assistance with technical and regulatory aspects of the project and Gilla Sünnenberg of the UEA for help with the production of Fig. 4. We are grateful for the reviewer comments that greatly improved an earlier version of this paper. Data availability: Data will be made available on request. Supplementary data is available from the article webpage.
Uncontrolled Keywords: sdg 6 - clean water and sanitation ,/dk/atira/pure/sustainabledevelopmentgoals/clean_water_and_sanitation
Faculty \ School: University of East Anglia Research Groups/Centres > Theme - ClimateUEA
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
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2023 01:44
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2023 01:45
DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.119639


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