Environmental Earth Sciences

, 77:794 | Cite as

Hydrochemical evolution of groundwater in a riparian zone affected by acid mine drainage (AMD), South China: the role of river–groundwater interactions and groundwater residence time

  • Jing Wen
  • Changyuan Tang
  • Yingjie CaoEmail author
  • Xing Li
  • Qian Chen
Original Article


Investigations were undertaken in the riparian zone near Shangba village, an AMD area, in southern China to determine the effects that river–groundwater interactions and groundwater residence time have had on environmental quality and geochemical evolution of groundwater. Based on the Darcy’s law and ionic mass balances as well as the method of isotopic tracer, the results showed that there were active interactions between AMD-contaminated river water and groundwater in the riparian zone in the study area. River water was found to be the main source of groundwater recharge in the northwestern part of the study area, whereas groundwater was found to be discharging into the river in the southeastern part of the study area throughout the year. End-member mixing analysis quantified that the contributions of river water to groundwater decreased gradually from 35.9% to negligible levels along the flow path. The calculated mixing concentrations of major ions indicated that water–rock reactions were the most important influence on groundwater quality. The wide range of Ca2+ + Mg2+ and HCO3 ratios and the change of groundwater type from Ca2+–SO42− type to a chemical composition dominated by Ca2+–HCO3 type indicated a change of the major water–rock reaction process from the influence of H2SO4 (AMD) to that of CO2 (soil respiration) along a groundwater flow path. Furthermore, the kinetics interpretation of SO42− and HCO3 concentrations suggested that the overlapping time of their kinetics triggered the hydrochemical evolution and the change of major weathering agent. This process might take approximately 8 years and this kinetic time will be continued when a steady source of contamination enter the aquifer.


AMD River–groundwater interactions Groundwater residence time The geochemical evolution 



Special thanks go to Lei Gao, Rui Li, Zewen Pan, Jiafu Zhao, Pengcheng Zhang and Chenglei Xie for technical support and guidance. We thank Dan Yao for article language help. Shangba villagers are also acknowledged for providing assistance during the sampling campaigns. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation NSFC (no. 41471020), Science Research Programs of Guangzhou (no. 201510010300), and Youth Science Fund Project (no. 41501512).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing Wen
    • 1
  • Changyuan Tang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yingjie Cao
    • 1
    Email author
  • Xing Li
    • 1
  • Qian Chen
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringSun Yat-Sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Geography and PlanningSun Yat-Sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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