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Chemical Characteristics of Flow Driven by Rainfall and Associated Impacts on Shallow Groundwater Quality in a Karst Watershed, Southwest China


Monitoring from 2016 to 2018 was used to investigate seasonal variation of chemical characteristics and define the water quality status within a subsurface river system in a karst region of Southwest China. For this, the water quality index (WQI) and principal component analysis (PCA) were employed. Results showed that baseflow and constituents, i.e., TN, TP, NO2-N, and SO42− exhibited seasonal variation. Arsenic and selenium were the main pollutants found in the river system of the Houzhai river basin. Total dissolved solids (TDS), pH, selenium, TP, NO2-N, and TN were obviously impacted by precipitation during the precipitation-derived flow processes. The groundwater quality was categorized as “very poor” throughout the entire monitoring period, with WQI values ranging from 62 to 70. In particular, TN, TP, selenium, and arsenic scores ranged from 80 to 100, which are considered unsuitable for potable water use. In order to ensure the safety of groundwater as a potable water source, administrators must recognize the importance of preventing the cross-contamination of surface water and groundwater to guarantee the safety of water and the health of local residents in karst areas.

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The datasets during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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The authors of this study would like to thank all anonymous reviewers for their helpful remarks. This study was financially supported by the National Nature Science Foundation of China (No. 41922003 and 41871080).

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National Nature Science Foundation of China, which were associated with Yang Gao.

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Conceptualization: Yang Gao; Resource and Data Curation: Sophie M. Green, Xuefa Wen, Jun Yang and Bailian Xiong; Writing-Original Draft: Zhuo Hao and Yang Gao; Writing - Review & Editing: Timothy A. Quine and Nianpeng He.

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Correspondence to Yang Gao.

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Hao, Z., Gao, Y., Green, S.M. et al. Chemical Characteristics of Flow Driven by Rainfall and Associated Impacts on Shallow Groundwater Quality in a Karst Watershed, Southwest China. Environ. Process. 8, 615–636 (2021).

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  • Hydrogeology
  • Groundwater quality
  • Chemical characteristics
  • WQI
  • Karst ecosystem