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Changes in flow and chemistry of groundwater heavily affected by human impacts in the Baiyangdian catchment of the North China Plain

Yuan, Ruiqiang, Wang, Shiqin, Wang, Peng, Song, Xianfang, Tang, Changyuan
Environmental earth sciences 2017 v.76 no.16 pp. 571
air pollution, alluvial plains, anthropogenic activities, aquifers, drainage, drawdown, groundwater, humans, hydrogeochemistry, ions, isotopes, mixing, nitrates, nitric oxide, sediments, sewage, sodium, soil, sulfates, surface water, surveys, water table, watersheds, China
To identify impacts of air pollution, sewage drainage, agricultural production, over-pumping and reservoir storage on groundwater, a field survey was conducted in the Baiyangdian catchment of the North China Plain. Major ions and water isotopes were measured. Results show that hydrological processes and hydrogeochemical evolution of shallow groundwater were greatly disturbed by human activities. Excessive pumping resulted in significant declines of groundwater levels over the study area. This also induced infiltration of surface water into groundwater. A groundwater depression cone was the conflux center of groundwater surrounded by recharge zones including alluvial fans and surface water in alluvial plain. Pumping almost was the only way to discharge groundwater. Emission of SO ₓ and NO ₓ contributed at least 11% of rock weathering by dissolving into infiltrating precipitation. Surface waters containing sewage replenished ambient groundwater with an average mixing ratio of 74 ± 17% due to groundwater level drawdown. As a result, groundwater had elevated concentrations of Na⁺ and SO₄²⁻ with Na⁺ exchanged into aquifer sediments. About 29 ± 16% of Na⁺ was exchanged from groundwater into soil matrix. Agriculture nitrate was high only in the recharge zones. The most important result is that the transformation of the study area from a place rich in water resource into an area lack of water just took several decades with the joint action of the heavily human activities. Our study also indicates that shallow groundwater could sensitively respond to and record environmental changes.