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The Role of Leaky Boreholes in the Contamination of a Regional Confined Aquifer. A Case Study: The Campo de Cartagena Region, Spain

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Poorly constructed wells (leaky or without a gravel pack) and abandoned wells can behave as conduits for the interconnection of aquifers at different depths and facilitate the transfer of contaminants between these aquifers. This is the case with Campo de Cartagena (SE Spain) where the primary land use is intensive irrigated agriculture, along with a high density of wells. The unconfined aquifer is heavily impacted by a high concentration of nitrate associated with agricultural activities. The present work provides a methodological approach to evaluate the impact of the unconfined aquifer on the water quality of the confined aquifer caused by leaky wells in high-density areas of production wells. The research approach included the use of geochemical and isotopic tools; specifically, nitrate was used as a tracer for evaluating the impact, and the code MIX_PROGRAM was used for mixing calculations. Results show an increase of the impact of the unconfined aquifer on the confined aquifer along the groundwater flow direction toward the coast, although this general pattern is controlled by local factors (pumping, intensity of agricultural practices, density of wells, and groundwater residence time).

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This work has been developed under the framework of the CGL-2004-05963-C04-01 and CGL2007-66861-C04-03 research projects, financed by Ministry of Science and Innovation (Spain). It also is included within the 08225/PI/08 research project financed by “Programa de Generación del Conocimiento Científico de Excelencia” of Fundación Seneca, Región de Murcia (II PCTRM 2007-10). Gratitude is expressed to the Geological Survey of Spain (IGME) and to K. J. Wallis for her assistance in the revision of the text.

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Correspondence to J. Jiménez-Martínez.

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Jiménez-Martínez, J., Aravena, R. & Candela, L. The Role of Leaky Boreholes in the Contamination of a Regional Confined Aquifer. A Case Study: The Campo de Cartagena Region, Spain. Water Air Soil Pollut 215, 311–327 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-010-0480-3

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  • Aquifer interconnection
  • Leaky borehole
  • Mixing rate
  • Campo de Cartagena