Assessment of background levels and pollution sources for arsenic and fluoride in the phreatic and confined groundwater of Xi’an city, Shaanxi, China

  • Yanyan Gao
  • Hui QianEmail author
  • Haike Wang
  • Jie Chen
  • Wenhao Ren
  • Faxuan Yang
Water Environmental Pollution and State of the Art Treatment Technologies


The presence of arsenic and fluoride in groundwater and their impacts on human health have been reported in many countries worldwide, but little information is available on As or F contamination in Xi’an city. This study highlights the distribution and sources of As and F anomalies in different aquifers of Xi’an city, based on the assessment of natural background levels (NBLs) and threshold values (TVs). Groundwater samples collected from phreatic and confined aquifers were analyzed to evaluate NBLs and TVs, using median  + 2MAD, Tukey inner fence (TIF), and percentile-based methods. Results showed that NBLs and TVs of As and F in the phreatic aquifer were lower than those in the confined aquifer, indicating importance of the geological effects on the enrichment of arsenic and fluoride in the confined aquifer. Combined with hydrogeochemical methods, the distributions of As and F anomalies show that high concentrations of As in both aquifers and F in the confined aquifer can be attributed to the upward flow of geothermal water through faults and ground fissures, while high concentrations of F in the phreatic aquifer may be greatly influenced by contaminated rivers. Although geological structures such as faults and ground fissures contribute to the high concentrations of potentially toxic elements, anthropogenic activities cannot be ignored because over exploitation of groundwater accelerates the development of ground fissures and results in the upward flow and mixing of geothermal water with groundwater in the upper aquifers.


Arsenic Fluoride Natural background values Threshold values Geological structures Xi’an 


Funding information

This work was financially supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (41572236); the Public Welfare Fund Project of the Ministry of Water Resources (201301084); Investigation and evaluation of environmental hydrogeology in Xi’an (211529180149); and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, CHD (300102298712). Their support is gratefully recognized.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yanyan Gao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hui Qian
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Haike Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jie Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wenhao Ren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Faxuan Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringChang’an UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Subsurface Hydrology and Ecological Effect in Arid Region of Ministry of EducationChang’an UniversityXi’anChina

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