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Geospatial Investigation into Groundwater Pollution and Water Quality Supported by Satellite Data: A Case Study from the Evros River (Eastern Mediterranean)


Managing water resources, in terms of both quality and quantity, in transboundary rivers is a difficult and challenging task that requires efficient cross-border cooperation and transparency. Groundwater pollution risk assessment and mapping techniques over the full catchment area are important tools that could be used as part of these water resource management efforts, to estimate pollution pressures and optimize land planning processes. The Evros river catchment is the second largest river in Eastern Europe and sustains a population of 3.6 million people in three different countries (Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece). This study provides detailed information on the main pollution sources and pressures in the Evros catchment and, for the first time, applies, assesses and evaluates a groundwater pollution risk mapping technique using satellite observations (Landsat NDVI) and an extensive dataset of field measurements covering different seasons and multiple years. We found that approximately 40 % of the Greek part of the Evros catchment is characterized as of high and very high pollution risk, while 14 % of the study area is classified as of moderate risk. Both the modeled and measured water quality status of the river showed large spatiotemporal variations consistent with the strong anthropogenic pressures in this system, especially on the northern and central segments of the catchment. The pollutants identified illustrate inputs of agrochemicals and urban wastes in the river. High correlation coefficients (R between 0.79 and 0.85) were found between estimated pollution risks and measured concentrations of those chemical parameters that are mainly attributed to anthropogenic activities rather than in situ biogeochemical processes. The pollution risk method described here could be used elsewhere as a decision support tool for mitigating the impact of hazardous human activities and improving management of groundwater resources.

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This work was supported by Grants FP7-MC-IRG-208841 and MEXT-CT-2006-038331.

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Correspondence to Dimitriou Elias.

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Elias, D., Angeliki, M., Vasiliki, M. et al. Geospatial Investigation into Groundwater Pollution and Water Quality Supported by Satellite Data: A Case Study from the Evros River (Eastern Mediterranean). Pure Appl. Geophys. 171, 977–995 (2014).

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  • Pollution risk
  • groundwater
  • Evros river
  • water quality