Application of water quality index, synthetic pollution index, and geospatial tools for the assessment of drinking water quality in the Indus Delta, Pakistan

  • Ghulam Shabir SolangiEmail author
  • Altaf Ali Siyal
  • Muhammad Munir Babar
  • Pirah Siyal


Seawater intrusion into the Indus Delta, Pakistan, has spoiled groundwater aquifers in the area. In the delta, the groundwater is widely used by residents for drinking. Considering the gravity of the problem, and concerns expressed by affected communities, the present study was conducted to assess and map the quality of groundwater, based on the physico-chemical properties of 180 samples, using two standard numerical indices, geospatial and statistical techniques. The analysis of water samples revealed that several parameters exceeded the drinking water quality guidelines suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO). The water quality index (WQI) identified that about 1.7%, 1.1%, 27.8%, 42.8%, and 26.6% of the water samples were excellent, good, poor, very poor, and unsuitable for drinking purposes, respectively. However, the synthetic pollution index (SPI) ranked the quality of 2.8%, 2.2%, 23.9%, 41.7%, and 29.4% as suitable, slightly polluted, moderately polluted, highly polluted, and unsuitable, respectively. Though the numerical model’s input is different, the proportionate ranking revealed a fair correlation (R2 = 0.75) between the outcomes of both indices. The results of the numerical indices and the interpolated geographical information system (GIS) mapping revealed that the quality of groundwater in most of the delta does not meet WHO guidelines for potable water. Hence, it is recommended that the groundwater of the delta should be properly treated before its use for domestic purposes. The study highlights the significance of using numerical indices and geospatial techniques for water quality evaluation in the Indus Delta and similar deltaic regions throughout the world.


Coastal aquifers Physico-chemical parameters Spatial analysis Water quality indices Factor analysis Principal component analysis 



This research was accomplished under the research project, titled, “Climate Change: Assessing the Impact of Seawater Intrusion on Soil, Water, and Environment in Indus Delta Using GIS and Remote Sensing Tools”. The project was funded by the USPCAS-W (U.S. - Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Water), at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro. The financial support and encouragement from the USPCAS-W, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, Pakistan are highly acknowledged. We are also grateful to Dr. Rick Bereit, Professor, The University of Utah, USA for his constructive comments and valuable suggestions regarding improvement of the manuscript.


  1. Abbasi, T., & Abbasi, S. A. (2012). Water quality indices (Vol. 384). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  2. Abbasnia, A., Yousefi, N., Mahvi, A. H., Nabizadeh, R., Radfard, M., Yousefi, M., & Alimohammadi, M. (2018). Evaluation of groundwater quality using water quality index and its suitability for assessing water for drinking and irrigation purposes: case study of Sistan and Baluchistan province (Iran). Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal. Scholar
  3. Abdulwahid, S. J. (2013). Water quality index of Delizhiyan springs and Shawarma River within Soran district, Erbil, Kurdistan region of Iraq. Journal of Applied Environmental and Biological Sciences, 3(1), 40–48.Google Scholar
  4. Ahmed, R., Viqar-Un-Nisa, Hussain, M., Tanwir, R., & Qureshi, S. A. (2004). Monitoring of fluoride and iodide levels in drinking water using ion selective electrodes. Nucleus, 41(1-4), 51–58.Google Scholar
  5. Akbar, A., Sitara, U., Khan, S. A., Muhammad, N., Khan, M. I., Khan, Y. H., & Kakar, S. R. (2013). Drinking water quality and risk of water-borne diseases in the rural mountainous area of Azad Kashmir Pakistan. International Journal of Biosciences, 3(12), 245–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Al-Ahmadi, M. E., & El-Fiky, A. A. (2009). Hydrogeochemical evaluation of shallow alluvial aquifer of Wadi Marwani, Western Saudi Arabia. Journal of King Saud University (Science), 21, 179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alamgir, A., Khan, M. A., Schilling, J., Shaukat, S. S., & Shahab, S. (2016). Assessment of groundwater quality in the coastal area of Sindh province, Pakistan. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 188, 78–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Al-Othman, Z. A., Ali, R., Al-Othman, A. M., & Ali, J. A. (2012). Habila.: assessment of toxic metals in wheat crops grown on selected soils of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, irrigated by different water sources. Arabian Journal of Chemistry.Google Scholar
  9. Arulbalaji, P., & Gurugnanam, B. (2017). Groundwater quality assessment using geospatial and statistical tools in Salem District, Tamil Nadu, India. Applied Water Science, 7, 2737–2751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Azizullah, A., Khattak, M. N. K., Richter, P., & Hader, D. P. (2011). Water pollution in Pakistan and its impact on public health-a review. Environmental International, 37, 479–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bablani, S. A., & Soomro, S. A. (2006). Evaluation of seawater intrusions in left bank sediments of coastal district Thatta, Sindh, Pakistan. Paper presented at the 1st SWIM-SWICA Joint Saltwater Intrusion Conference, 24–29 September 2006Google Scholar
  12. Bahadar, H., Mostafalou, S., & Abdollahi, M. (2014). Growing burden of diabetes in Pakistan and the possible role of arsenic and pesticides. Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders, 12, 117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Balakrishnan, B., Saleem, A., & Mallikarjun, N. D. (2011). Groundwater quality mapping using geographic information system (GIS): a case study of Gulbarga city, Karnataka, India. African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, 5(12), 1069–1084.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bharti, A., & Katyal, D. (2011). Water quality indices used for surface water vulnerability assessment. International Journal of Environmental Sciences, 2(1), 154–173.Google Scholar
  15. Chandio, N. H., Anwar, M. M., & Mallah, Q. H. (2018). Impacts of climate change on coast line of Arabian Sea: a case study of Indus River Delta, Pakistan. Sindh University Research Journal (Science Series), 50(001), 147–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clasen, T., Cairncross, S., Haller, L., Bartram, J., & Walker, D. (2007). Cost-effectiveness of water quality interventions for preventing diarrhoeal disease in developing countries. Journal of Water and Health, 5(4), 599–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Das, N., Paul, S., Chatterjee, D., Banerjee, N., Majumder, N. S., Sarma, N., Sau, T. J., Basu, S., Banerjee, S., Majumder, P., Bandyopadhyay, A. K., States, J. C., & Giri, A. K. (2012). Arsenic exposure through drinking water increases the risk of liver and cardiovascular diseases in the population of West Bengal, India. BMC Public Health Journal, 12, 639. Accessed 12 Aug 2018.
  18. Dede, O. T., Telci, I. T., & Aral, M. M. (2013). The use of water quality index models for the evaluation of surface water quality: a case study for Kirmir Basin, Ankara, Turkey. Water Quality Exposure and Health, 5, 41–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Demirak, A., Yilmaz, F., Tuna, A. L., & Ozdemir, N. (2006). Heavy metals in water, sediment, and tissues of Leuciscus cephalus from a stream in southwestern Turkey. Chemosphere, 63, 1451–1458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Devi, D. G., Barbaddha, S. B., Hazel, D., & Dolly, C. (2003). Physico-chemical characteristics of drinking water at Velsao Goa. Journal of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Monitoring, 13(3), 203–209.Google Scholar
  21. Dillingham, R., & Guerrant, R. L. (2004). Childhood stunting: measuring and stemming the staggering costs of inadequate water and sanitation. Lancet, 363, 94–95. Scholar
  22. Ebrahimi, M., Kazemi, H., Ehtashemi, M., & Rockawaya, T. D. (2016). Assessment of groundwater quantity and quality and saltwater intrusion in the Damghan basin, Iran. Chemie der Erde, 76, 227–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. El-Hoz, M., Mohsen, A., & Iaaly, A. (2014). Assessing groundwater quality in a coastal area using the GIS technique. Desalination and Water Treatment, 52, 1967–1979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ewaid, S. H., & Abed, S. A. (2017). Water quality index for Al-Gharraf River, southern Iraq. The Egyptian Journal of Aquatic Research, 43, 117–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ferencz, B., Dawidek, J., & Toporowska, M. (2018). Instability of water quality of a shallow, polymictic, flow-through lake. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 229, 141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Garg, S. K. (2012). Hydrology and water resources engineering, handbook. New Delhi: Khanna Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Gautam, S. K., Maharana, C., Sharma, D., Singh, A. K., Tripathi, J. K., & Singh, S. K. (2015). Evaluation of groundwater quality in the Chotanagpur plateau region of the Subarnarekha river basin, Jharkhand State, India. Sustainability Water Quality and Ecology, 6, 57–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gimenez, E., & Morell, I. (1997). Hydrogeochemical analysis of salinization processes in the coastal aquifer of Oropesa (Castellon, Spain). Environmental Geology, 29, 118–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Horton, R. K. (1965). An index number system for rating water quality. Journal of the Water Pollution Control Federation, 37(3), 300–306.Google Scholar
  30. Hoseinzadeh, E., Khorsandi, H., Wei, C., & Alipour, M. (2014). Evaluation of Aydughmush river water quality using the national sanitation foundation water quality index (NSFWQI), river pollution index (RPI), and forestry water quality index (FWQI). Desalination and Water Treatment, 54, 2994–3002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hoseinzadeh, E., Wei, C., Safari, M., & Godini, H. (2016). Evaluation of rainwater quality using factor analysis: a case study of Khorramabad in western Iran. Desalination and Water Treatment, 1–13.
  32. Husain, V., Nizam, H., & Arain, G. M. (2012). Arsenic and fluoride mobilization mechanism in Groundwater of Indus Delta and the Thar Desert, Sindh, Pakistan. International Journal of Economics and Environmental Geology, 3(1), 15–23.Google Scholar
  33. IPCS. (2001). Environmental health criteria on arsenic and arsenic compounds. Environmental Health Criteria Series, No. 224, Arsenic and arsenic compounds, second (p. 521). Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  34. Ishaque, M., & Khan, A. A. (2001). Prevalence of dental caries and oral hygiene habits of children in Quetta, Pakistan. Pakistan Oral and Dental Journal, 21(1), 60–63.Google Scholar
  35. Kalhoro, N. A., He, Z., Xu, D., Faiz, M., Yafei, L. V., Sohoo, N., & Bhutto, A. H. (2016). Vulnerability of the Indus River Delta of the north Arabian Sea, Pakistan. Global NEST Journal, 18(3), 599–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ketata-Rokbani, M., Gueddari, M., & Bouhlila, R. (2011). Use of geographical information system and water quality index to assess groundwater quality in El Khairat Deep Aquifer (Enfidha, Tunisian Sahel). Iranian (Iranica) Journal of Energy & Environment, 2(2), 133–144.Google Scholar
  37. Khuhawar, M. Y., Brohi, R. O. Z., Jahangir, T. M., & Lanjwani, M. F. (2018). Water quality assessment of Ramsar site, Indus Delta, Sindh, Pakistan. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 190(492), 1–11.Google Scholar
  38. Lee, E. J., & Schwab, K. J. (2005). Deficiencies in drinking water distribution systems in developing countries. Journal of Water and Health, 3(2), 109–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ma, J., Ding, Z., Wei, G., Zhao, H., & Huang, T. (2009). Sources of water pollution and evolution of water quality in the Wuwei basin of Shiyang river, Northwest China. Journal of Environmental Management, 90(2), 1168–1177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Majeed, S., Zaman, S.B., Ali, I., & Ahmed, S. (2010). Situational analysis of Sindh coast issues and options managing national resources for future agriculture research briefings volume 2 (11).Google Scholar
  41. Martaza, G., (2014), Review article, Pollution status of Pakistan. A respective review on heavy metal contamination of water, soil and vegetables, BioMed. Research International, Article ID 813206, 29 pages, Scholar
  42. Memon, M., Soomro, M. S., Akhtar, M. S., & Memon, K. S. (2011). Drinking water quality assessment in southern Sindh (Pakistan). [Article]. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 177(1–4), 39–50. Scholar
  43. Nickson, R. T., McArthur, J. M., Shrestha, B., Kyaw-Nyint, T. O., & Lowry, D. (2005). Arsenic and other drinking water quality issues, Muzaffargarh District, Pakistan. Applied Geochemistry, 20, 55–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Patil, P. N., Sawant, D. V., & Deshmukh, R. N. (2012). Physico-chemical Parameters for Testing of Water-A Review. International Journal of Environmental Sciences, 3(3), 1194–1207.Google Scholar
  45. Popovic, N. Z., Duknic, J. A., Atlagic, J. Z., Rakovic, M. J., Marinkovic, N. S., Tubic, B. P., & Paunovic, M. M. (2016). Application of the water pollution index in the assessment of the ecological status of rivers: a case study of the Sava River, Serbia. Acta Zoologica Bulgarica, 68(1), 97–102.Google Scholar
  46. Rahman, M. M., Naidu, R., & Bhattacharya, P. (2009). Arsenic contamination in groundwater in the Southeast Asia region. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 31(Suppl. 1), 9–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ramesh, K., & Elango, L. (2006). Groundwater quality assessment in Tondiar basin. International Journal of Environment and Pollution, 26(6), 497–504.Google Scholar
  48. Sahu, P., & Sikdar, P. K. (2008). Hydrochemical framework of the aquifer in and around East Kolkata wetlands, West Bengal, India. Environmental Geology, 55, 23–835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sener, S., Sener, E., & Davraz, A. (2017). Evaluation of water quality using water quality index (WQI) method and GIS in Aksu River (SW-Turkey). Science of the Total Environment, 584-585, 131–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shabbir, R., & Ahmed, S. S. (2015). Use of geographic information system and water quality index to assess groundwater quality in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering, 40, 2033–2047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sherif, M., Kacimov, A., Javadi, A., & Ebraheem, A. Z. (2012). Modeling groundwater flow and seawater intrusion in the coastal aquifer of Wadi Ham UAE. Water Resources Management, 26, 751–774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Singh, S. K., Srivastava, P. K., Singh, D., Han, D., Gautam, S. K., & Pandey, A. C. (2015). Modelling groundwater quality over a humid subtropical region using numerical indices, earth observation datasets, and X-ray diffraction technique: a case study of Allahabad district, India. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 37, 157–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Solangi, G. S., Siyal, A. A., Babar, M. M., & Siyal, P. (2017). Groundwater quality mapping using geographic information system: a case study of District Thatta, Sindh. Mehran University Research Journal of Engineering & Technology, 36, 1059–1072.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Solangi, G. S., Siyal, A. A., Babar, M. M., & Siyal, P. (2018). Evaluation of surface water quality using the water quality index (WQI) and the synthetic pollution index (SPI): a case study of Indus Delta region of Pakistan. Desalination and Water Treatment, 118, 39–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Solangi, G. S., Siyal, A. A., Babar, M. M., & Siyal, P. (2019a). Groundwater quality evaluation using the water quality index (WQI), the synthetic pollution index (SPI), and geospatial tools: a case study of Sujawal district, Pakistan. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal.Google Scholar
  56. Solangi, G. S., Siyal, A. A., Babar, M. M., & Siyal, P. (2019b). Evaluation of drinking water quality using the water quality index (WQI), the synthetic pollution index (SPI) and geospatial tools in Thatta district, Pakistan. Desalination and Water Treatment. Scholar
  57. Stephenson, L. S., Latham, M. C., & Ottesen, E. A. (2000). Malnutrition and parasitic Helminth infections. The Journal of Parasitology, 121, 23–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Supriyadi, K., & Putro, A. S. P. (2017). Geophysical and hydrochemical approach for seawater intrusion in North Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. International Journal of Geomate, 12(31), 134–140.Google Scholar
  59. Tahir, M. A., Chandio, B. A., Abdullah, M., & Rashid, A. (1998). Drinking water quality monitoring in the rural areas of Rawalpindi. In Proceedings of the national workshop on quality of drinking water (pp. 35–39). Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources: Islamabad.Google Scholar
  60. Tiwari, T., & Mishra, M. A. (1985). Preliminary assignment of water quality index of major Indian rivers. Indian Journal of Environmental Protection, 5(4), 276–279.Google Scholar
  61. Tyagi, S., Sharma, B., Singh, P., & Dobhal, R. (2013). Water quality assessment in terms of water quality index. American Journal of Water Resources, 1(3), 34–38.Google Scholar
  62. Uqaili, A., Mughal, A., & Maheshwari, B. (2012). Arsenic contamination in ground water sources of district Matiari, Sindh. International Journal of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, 3(4), 259–266.Google Scholar
  63. WHO. (2004). Guidelines for drinking water quality: training pack. Geneva: Switzerland.Google Scholar
  64. WHO. (2011). Guidelines for drinking-water quality. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mehran University of Engineering and TechnologyKhairpur Mir’sPakistan
  2. 2.U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water (USPCAS-W)Mehran University of Engineering and TechnologyJamshoroPakistan
  3. 3.Department of Land and Water ManagementSindh Agriculture UniversityTandojamPakistan
  4. 4.National Centre of Excellence in Analytical ChemistryJamshoroPakistan

Personalised recommendations