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Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 70, Issue 5, pp 2335–2348 | Cite as

Nitrate contamination in groundwater in the Sidi Aïch–Gafsa oases region, Southern Tunisia

  • Younes HamedEmail author
  • Sadek Awad
  • Amina Ben Sâad
Original Article

Abstract

Groundwater pumped from the semi-confined Complex Terminal (CT) aquifer is an important production factor in irrigated oases agriculture in southern Tunisia. A rise in the groundwater salinity has been observed as a consequence of increasing abstraction from the aquifer during the last few decades. All sources of contamination were investigated using hydrochemical data available from the 1990s. Water samples were taken from wells tapping both the CT and the shallow aquifers and analyzed with regard to chemistry tracers. Hydrochemical and water quality data obtained through a sampling period (December 2010) and analysis program indicate that nitrate pollution can be a serious problem affecting groundwater due to the use of nitrogen (N) fertilizers–pesticides in agriculture. The concentration of nitrate in an groundwater-irrigated area in Gafsa oases basin was studied, where abstraction from an unconfined CT aquifer has increased threefold over 25 years to 34 million m3/year; groundwater levels are falling at up to 0.7 m/year; and groundwater is increasingly mineralised (TDS increase from 500 to 4,000 mg/L), with nitrate concentrations ranging from 16 to 320 mg/L.

Keywords

Groundwater salinity Nitrate Hydrochemical data Gafsa oases Tunisia 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to express their thanks to the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions and would like to thank the staff members of Gafsa Water Resources Division/Agriculture Ministry, the members of phosphate Company of Gafsa “CPG”, the Water, Energy and Environmental Laboratory (L3E)-ENIS, Sfax, Tunisia, the Regional Blood Transfusion Centre of Gafsa and the members of MCEMA laboratory for their help during field work.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Sciences of GabesUniversity of Hatem Ben TaherGabesTunisia
  2. 2.Water, Energy and Environmental Laboratory (L3E), ENISSfaxTunisia
  3. 3.Laboratory MCEM (Materials, Catalysis, Environment and Analytical Methods), Faculty of AgricultureLebanese UniversityBeirutLebanon
  4. 4.Regional Blood Transfusion Centre of GafsaGafsaTunisia

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