Environmental Geology

, 57:1521

Spatial relationship of groundwater arsenic distribution with regional topography and water-table fluctuations in the shallow aquifers in Bangladesh

  • M. Shamsudduha
  • L. J. Marzen
  • A. Uddin
  • M.-K. Lee
  • J. A. Saunders
Original Article


The present study has examined the relationship of groundwater arsenic (As) levels in alluvial aquifers with topographic elevation, slope, and groundwater level on a large basinal-scale using high-resolution (90 m × 90 m) Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation model and water-table data in Bangladesh. Results show that high As (>50 μg/l) tubewells are located in low-lying areas, where mean surface elevation is approximately 10 m. Similarly, high As concentrations are found within extremely low slopes (<0.7°) in the country. Groundwater elevation (weekly measured by Bangladesh Water Development Board) was mapped using water-table data from 950 shallow (depth <100 m) piezometers distributed over the entire country. The minimum, maximum and mean groundwater elevation maps for 2003 were generated using Universal Kriging interpolation method. High As tubewells are located mainly in the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta, Sylhet Trough, and recent floodplains, where groundwater elevation in shallow aquifers is low with a mean value of 4.5 m above the Public Works Datum (PWD) level. Extremely low groundwater gradients (0.01–0.001 m/km) within the GBM delta complex hinder groundwater flow and cause slow flushing of aquifers. Low elevation and gentle slope favor accumulation of finer sediments, As-carrying iron-oxyhydroxide minerals, and abundant organic matter within floodplains and alluvial deposits. At low horizontal hydraulic gradients and under reducing conditions, As is released in groundwater by microbial activity, causing widespread contamination in the low-lying deltaic and floodplain areas, where As is being recycled with time due to complex biogeochemical processes.


Arsenic SRTM digital elevation model Spatial distribution Groundwater gradient Bangladesh 


  1. Aggarwal PK, Basu AR, Poreda RJ (2000) Isotope hydrology of groundwater in Bangladesh: implications for characterization and mitigation of arsenic in groundwater. International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, TC Project BGD/8/016Google Scholar
  2. Ahmed KM, Bhattacharya P, Hasan MA, Akhter SH, Alam SMM, Bhuyian MAH, Imam MB, Khan AA, Sracek O (2004) Arsenic enrichment in groundwater of the alluvial aquifers in Bangladesh: an overview. Appl Geochem 19:181–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aziz Z, van Geen A, Stute M, Versteeg R, Horneman A, Zheng Y, Goodbred S, Steckler M, Weinman B, Gavrieli I, Hoque MA, Shamsudduha M, Ahmed KM (2008) Impact of local recharge on arsenic concentrations in shallow aquifers inferred from the electromagnetic conductivity of soils in Araihazar, Bangladesh. Water Resour Res (in press)Google Scholar
  4. BADC (2003) Survey Report on Irrigation Equipment and Irrigated Area in Boro/2003 Season. Bangladesh Agricultural Development CorporationGoogle Scholar
  5. BAMWSP (2002) Groundwater Task Force Final Report. Report prepared for the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh by Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development & Co-operatives, Local Government Division, Dhaka, BangladeshGoogle Scholar
  6. BGS and DPHE (2001) Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater in Bangladesh, vol 2. Final Report, BGS Technical Report WC/00/19Google Scholar
  7. Burgess WG, Burren M, Perrin J, Ahmed KM (2002) Constraints on the sustainable development of arsenic-bearing aquifers in southern Bangladesh. Part 1. A conceptual model of arsenic in the aquifer. In: Hiscock KM, Rivett MO, Davidson RM (eds) Sustainable groundwater development. Geological Society London, Special Publication, vol 193, pp 45–163Google Scholar
  8. Buschmann J, Berg M, Stengel C, Sampson ML (2007) Arsenic and manganese contamination of drinking water resources in Cambodia: coincidence of risk areas with low relief topography. Environ Sci Technol 41:2146–2152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. CGIAR-CSI (2008) Void-filled seamless SRTM data V1, 2004, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), available from the CGIAR-CSI SRTM 90 m Database. http://srtm.csi.cgiar.org. Access date 5 March 2008
  10. Chakraborti D, Biswas BK, Basu GK, Chowdhury UK, Chowdhury TR, Lodh D, Chanda CR, Mandal BK, Samanta G, Chakraborti AK, Rahman MM, Paul K, Roy S, Kabir S, Ahmed B, Das R, Salim M, Quamruzzaman Q (1999) Possible arsenic contamination free groundwater source in Bangladesh. J Surf Sci Technol 15:179–187Google Scholar
  11. Dhar RK, Biswas BK, Samanta G, Mandal BK, Chakraborti D, Roy S, Jafar A, Islam A, Ara G, Kabir S, Khan AW, Ahmed SA, Hadi SA (1997) Groundwater arsenic calamity in Bangladesh. Curr Sci 73:48–59Google Scholar
  12. Dowling CB, Poreda RJ, Basu AR, Peters SL (2002) Geochemical study of arsenic release mechanisms in the Bengal Basin groundwater. Water Resour Res . doi:10.1029/2001WR000968
  13. FFWC (2007) The flooded area of Bangladesh every year from 1954 to 2005. Flood Forecasting and Warning Center, Bangladesh. http://www.ffwc.gov.bd/
  14. Gaus I, Kinniburgh DG, Talbot JC, Webster R (2003) Geostatistical analysis of As concentration in groundwater in Bangladesh using disjunctive kriging. Environ Geol 44:939–948CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goodbred SL, Kuehl SA (2000) The significance of large sediment supply, active tectonism, and eustasy on margin sequence development: late Quaternary stratigraphy and evolution of the Ganges–Brahmaputra delta. Sediment Geol 133:227–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gorokhovich Y, Voustianiouk A (2006) Accuracy assessment of the processed SRTM-based elevation data by CGIAR using field data from USA and Thailand and its relation to the terrain characteristics. Remote Sens Environ 104:409–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gundogdu KS, Guney I (2007) Spatial analyses of groundwater levels using universal kriging. J Earth Syst Sci 116(1):49–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Harvey CF, Ashfaque KN, Yu W, Badruzzaman ABM, Ali MA, Oates PM, Michael HA, Neumann RB, Beckie R, Islam S, Ahmed MF (2006) Groundwater dynamics and arsenic contamination in Bangladesh. Chem Geol 228:112–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harvey CF, Swartz CH, Badruzzaman ABM, Keon-Blute N, Yu W, Ali MA, Jay J, Beckie R, Niedan V, Brabander D, Oates PM, Ashfaque KN, Islam S, Hemond HF, Ahmed MF (2002) Arsenic mobility and groundwater extraction in Bangladesh. Science 298:1602–1606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hoque MA, Hoque MM, Ahmed KM (2007) Declining groundwater level and aquifer dewatering in Dhaka metropolitan area, Bangladesh: causes and quantification. Hydrogeol J 15:1523–1534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hoque MA, Khan AA, Shamsudduha M, Hossain MS, Islam T, Chowdhury SH (2008) Near surface lithology and spatial variation of arsenic in the shallow groundwater: southeastern Bangladesh. Environ Geol . doi:10.1007/s00254-008-1267-3
  22. Islam FS, Gault AG, Boothman C, Polya DA, Charnock JM, Chatterjee D, Lloyd JR (2004) Role of metal-reducing bacteria in arsenic release from Bengal delta sediments. Nature 430:68–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jarvis A, Reuter HI, Nelson A, Guevara E (2006) Hole-filled SRTM for the globe Version 3, available from the CGIAR-CSI SRTM 90 m Database. http://srtm.csi.cgiar.org.
  24. Klump S, Kipfer R, Cirpka OA, Harvey CF, Brennwald MS, Ashfaque KN, Badruzzaman ABM, Hug SJ, Imboden DM (2006) Groundwater dynamics and arsenic mobilization in Bangladesh assessed using noble gases and tritium. Environ Sci Technol 40:243–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McArthur JM, Ravenscroft P, Safiullah S, Thirlwall MF (2001) Arsenic in groundwater: testing pollution mechanisms for sedimentary aquifer in Bangladesh. Water Resour Res 37:109–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Morgan JP, McIntire WG (1959) Quaternary geology of the Bengal Basin, East Pakistan and India. Geol Soc Am Bull 70:319–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mukherjee A, Fryar AE, Howell PD (2007) Regional hydrostratigraphy and groundwater flow modeling in the arsenic-affected areas of the western Bengal basin, West Bengal, India. Hydrogeol J . doi:10.1007/s10040-007-0208-7
  28. Nickson R, McArthur J, Burgess W, Ahmed KM, Ravenscroft P, Rahman M (1998) Arsenic poisoning of Bangladesh groundwater. Nature 395:338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nickson RT, McArthur JM, Ravenscroft P, Burgess WG, Ahmed KM (2000) Mechanism of arsenic release to groundwater, Bangladesh and West Bengal. Appl Geochem 15:403–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ravenscroft P, Burgess WG, Ahmed KM, Burren M, Perrin J (2005) Arsenic in groundwater of the Bengal Basin, Bangladesh: distribution, field relations, and hydrogeological setting. Hydrogeol J 13:727–751CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Saunders JA, Lee M-K, Uddin A, Mohammad S, Wilkin RT, Fayek M, Korte NE (2005) Natural arsenic contamination of Holocene alluvial aquifers by linked tectonic, weathering, and microbial processes. Geochem Geophys Geosyst. doi:10.1029/2004GC000803
  32. Shamsudduha M (2004) Geostatistical and multivariate statistical analyses on the widespread arsenic problem in the groundwater of Bangladesh. MSc, University of Technology Sydney, NSW, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  33. Shamsudduha M, Marzen LJ, Uddin A, Lee M-K, Saunders JA (2006) A GIS-based spatial analysis on topographic elevation, slope and groundwater arsenic in alluvial aquifers of Bangladesh: 3rd annual GIS Symposium, Auburn University, Alabama, USAGoogle Scholar
  34. Shamsudduha M, Uddin A (2007) Quaternary shoreline shifting and hydrogeologic influence on the distribution of groundwater arsenic in aquifers of the Bengal Basin. J Asian Earth Sci 31:177–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smith A, Lingas E, Rahman M (2000) Contamination of drinking-water by As in Bangladesh. Bull World Health Organ 78:1093–1103Google Scholar
  36. Stute M, Zheng Y, Schlosser P, Horneman A, Dhar RK, Datta S, Hoque MA, Seddique AA, Shamsudduha M, Ahmed KM, van Geen A (2007) Hydrological control of As concentrations in Bangladesh groundwater. Water Resour Res 43. doi:10.1029/2005WR004499
  37. Uddin A, Lundberg N (1998) Cenozoic history of the Himalayan-Bengal system: Sand composition in the Bengal Basin, Bangladesh. Geol Soc Am Bull 110:497–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. USGS (2002) Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) Elevation Dataset. Sioux Falls, South Dakota. http://seamless.usgs.gov. Cited 19 February 2006
  39. van Geen A, Zheng Y, Versteeg R, Stute M, Horneman A, Dhar R, Steckler M, Gelman A, Small C, Ahsan H, Graziano J, Hussein I, Ahmed KM (2003) Spatial variability of arsenic in 6000 tube wells in a 25 km2 area of Bangladesh. Water Resour Res 39(5):1140. doi:10.1029/2002WR001617 Google Scholar
  40. Varsanyi I, Kovacs LO (2006) Arsenic, iron and organic matter in sediments and groundwater in the Pannonian Basin, Hungary. Appl Geochem 21:949–963CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. WARPO (2000) National water management plan project, draft development strategy, main final, vol 2. Water Resources Planning Organization, BangladeshGoogle Scholar
  42. Weinman B, Goodbred S, Zheng Y, Singhvi A, Nagar Y, Aziz Z, van Geen A (2006) Fluvio-deltaic processes and geomorphic development at the scale of 100 to 1000 m: their importance in governing the heterogeneity of groundwater arsenic in Araihazar, Bangladesh. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 38(7):180Google Scholar
  43. Yu WH, Harvey CM, Harvey HF (2003) Arsenic in groundwater in Bangladesh: a geostatistical and epidemiological framework for evaluating health effects and potential remedies. Water Res Res 39(6):1146. doi:10.1029/2002WR001327 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zheng Y, Stute M, van Geen A, Gavrieli I, Dhar R, Simpson J, Ahmed KM (2004) Redox control of arsenic mobilization in Bangladesh groundwater. Appl Geochem 19:201–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Shamsudduha
    • 1
    • 2
  • L. J. Marzen
    • 1
  • A. Uddin
    • 1
  • M.-K. Lee
    • 1
  • J. A. Saunders
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geology and GeographyAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations