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Evaluating trends in groundwater quality of coastal alluvial aquifers of Eastern India for sustainable groundwater management

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Abstract

Groundwater is a precious natural element which ensures global water, food, and environmental security in the twenty-first century. Systematic monitoring, sustainable utilization, preservation and remediation are critical aspects of efficient groundwater resource management. This study deals with the analysis of spatial variability and trend in groundwater chemistry as well as identification of possible contamination sources in a coastal alluvial basin of eastern India. Pre-monsoon season data of 14 groundwater-quality variables measured in ‘leaky confined’ and ‘confined’ aquifers were analyzed for ten years (2012–2021). Mann–Kendall (M–K) test with the Sen’s Slope Estimator, Spearman Rank Order Correlation (SROC) and Innovative Trend Analysis (ITA) tests were employed to assess decadal (2012–2021) trends. The analysis of the results indicated that the ‘critical’ water-quality parameters exceeding the acceptable limits for drinking are TDS, EC, TH, pH, Mg2+, Na+, K+, Fe2+, HCO3ˉ, Clˉ and NO3ˉ. Weak negative correlations between rainfall and groundwater elevation for both the aquifers reveal poor rainfall recharge into the aquifers. Therefore, a reduction in groundwater abstraction and augmentation of groundwater recharge is recommended. Trend analysis results indicated that the concentrations of TH, Mg2+ and Fe2+ exhibit significant increasing trends in the ‘leaky confined aquifer’. In contrast, significant rising trends in TH, Mg2+, Na+, Fe2+, HCO3ˉ and NO3ˉ concentrations are identified in the ‘confined aquifer’. Further, the SROC test could not detect the trends in groundwater quality in most blocks and for many parameters. On the other hand, the ITA test revealed significant trends in most of the parameters of the two aquifers in almost all the blocks. Trend magnitudes of the groundwater-quality parameters based on the Sen’s Slope Estimator and the ITA test vary from –63.7 to 58.65 mg/L/year for TDS, –14 to 39.07 mg/L/year for TH, –1.49 to 4.83 mg/L/year for Mg2+, –7.14 to 22.96 mg/L/year for Na+, –0.32 to 0.44 mg/L/year for Fe2+, –8.33 to 20.75 mg/L/year for HCO3ˉ, –26.52 to 31.01 mg/L/year for Clˉ and 1.29 to 3.76 mg/L/year for NO3ˉ over the study area. The results of M–K and ITA tests were found in agreement in all the blocks for both the aquifers. Groundwater contamination in both the aquifers can be attributed to weathering, geogenic processes, mineral dissolution, seawater intrusion, poor recharge pattern and injudicious anthropogenic activities. It is strongly recommended that concerned authorities urgently formulate efficient strategies for managing groundwater quality in the ‘leaky confined’ and ‘confined’ aquifers which serve as vital sources of drinking and irrigation water supplies in the study area.

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Data availability

The datasets used will be made available by the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

The first author is highly grateful to the Ministry of Education (MOE), New Delhi, Government of India, for providing student fellowship to pursue Ph.D. study. The authors are also thankful to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), Kolkata; the Groundwater Survey and Investigation (GWS&I), Bhubaneswar; the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Pune; the Special Relief Commissioner (SRC), Bhubaneswar; and the Water Resources Investigation & Development Department (WRIDD), Kolkata for providing rainfall, groundwater-level, groundwater-quality and other associated information.

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Subhankar Ghosh: Conceptualization, Data curation, Software, Formal analysis, Writing – Original draft; Madan Kumar Jha: Conceptualization, Supervision, Project administration, Writing – Review and Technical Editing.

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Ghosh, S., Jha, M.K. Evaluating trends in groundwater quality of coastal alluvial aquifers of Eastern India for sustainable groundwater management. Environ Sci Pollut Res 31, 42049–42074 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-024-33852-3

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