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Researchers offer solutions to poisonous well-water crisis in southern Asia
Date:6/1/2010

lat, low-lying floodplains of these major rivers are the areas affected by groundwater contamination.

A logical solution is to dig deeper wells to reach uncontaminated aquifers for supplying safe drinking water. However, farmers also want access to this water to irrigate their rice paddies. And that's a problem, according to Michael's research.

In 2008, Michael showed through numerical modeling of groundwater flow in the Bengal Basin that an uncontaminated domestic well more than 500 feet (150 meters) could remain arsenic-free for at least a thousand years. However, she projected an entirely different scenario for deep irrigation wells, which use mechanized pumps instead of hand pumps to bring groundwater to the surface. The high volumes of water drawn by these irrigation systems induced a much faster downward migration of arsenic-contaminated surface water into the deep aquifer.

"To protect drinking water from arsenic contamination, we recommend that deeper wells only be used by individual households for drinking water and not for crop irrigation," Michael says.

In addition to preserving deep wells specifically for drinking water, she and her co-authors also recommend these measures:

  • Reinvigorating well-testing campaigns by governments and international organizations.
  • Better use of existing geological data and the compilation of test results to target zones that are low in arsenic for the installation of community wells.
  • The re-testing of tens of thousands of deep wells, particularly those that have been used for both domestic and farming purposes.
  • The choice of mitigation option can be situation-dependent: filters or other alternatives may be the best choice in some areas.

"Obviously, arsenic-contaminated drinking water is a huge problem from a human health perspective," Michael says. "We've shown that there are some viable options in South Asia, but there is much more that we need
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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

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