Environmental Earth Sciences

, 77:775 | Cite as

Groundwater quality assessment for domestic and agricultural purposes in Yan’an City, northwest China: implications to sustainable groundwater quality management on the Loess Plateau

  • Peiyue LiEmail author
  • Song He
  • Ningning Yang
  • Gang Xiang
Thematic Issue
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Water in Loess


Groundwater is critical for the sustainable development of the Loess Plateau, while groundwater quality is generally poor in this area due to natural factors and anthropogenic pollution. This study was carried out to investigate the suitability of groundwater for domestic and agricultural purposes in Yan’an City on the Chinese Loess Plateau and to assess its implications to sustainable groundwater management on the plateau. The index levels were compared with the threshold values established by the national and the WHO drinking water guidelines, and the suitability of groundwater for irrigation purposes was assessed using multiple agricultural water quality indicators. An entropy-weighted Technique for Order Preference by Similarity to an Ideal Solution (entropy-weighted TOPSIS) was adopted for overall groundwater quality assessment. The results indicate that the study area is characterized by saline, hard, and slightly alkaline groundwater, mainly of the HCO3–Ca·Mg type, accompanied by some minor SO4·Cl–Ca·Mg type. The dissolution of carbonates and gypsum and the leaching of soluble salts are important natural processes influencing the groundwater ion chemistry. The parameters TH, TDS, and SO42− are major indices, while Fe, Mn, F, and NH4+ are minor contaminants affecting groundwater quality. The overall groundwater quality is generally acceptable for irrigation, and most of the water is suitable for drinking. Rainwater harvesting, water quality improvement programs, regular water quality monitoring, and multidisciplinary water research programs are suggested as measures for sustainable groundwater management on the Loess Plateau.


Groundwater pollution Water quality Nitrate pollution Hydrochemistry TOPSIS Loess Plateau 



We are grateful to the various agencies and institutes that provided financial support for the research presented in this paper. They are the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41502234, 41602238, 41572236 and 41761144059), the Research Funds for Young Stars in Science and Technology of Shaanxi Province (2016KJXX-29), the Special Funds for Basic Scientific Research of Central Colleges (300102298301), the Fok Ying Tong Education Foundation (161098), the General Financial Grant from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2015M580804), the Special Financial Grant from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2016T090878), the Special Financial Grant from the Shaanxi Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2015BSHTDZZ09), the Innovation Training Program for Undergraduate Students of Chang’an University (201710710099 and 201710710100) and the Ten Thousand Talents Program. The anonymous reviewers and the editor are also sincerely acknowledged for their useful and constructive comments which have helped us improve the quality of the paper. In addition, the first author thanks his wife and his new baby boy who bring him a lot of joy which is very helpful to relieve his mental stress.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringChang’an UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Subsurface Hydrology and Ecological Effects in Arid Region of the Ministry of EducationChang’an UniversityXi’anChina
  3. 3.104 Geological BranchGuizhou Bureau of Geology and Mineral Exploration and DevelopmentDuyunChina

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