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Aquifer recharge with stormwater runoff in urban areas: Influence of vadose zone thickness on nutrient and bacterial transfers from the surface of infiltration basins to groundwater

Voisin, Jérémy, Cournoyer, Benoit, Vienney, Antonin, Mermillod-Blondin, Florian
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.637-638 pp. 1496-1507
ribosomal RNA, urban areas, organic carbon, genes, field experimentation, nutrients, groundwater, bacteria, phosphates, bacterial communities, biodegradability, dissolved oxygen, wet season, basins, community structure, stormwater, high-throughput nucleotide sequencing, aquifers, ammonium, environmental impact, vadose zone, nitrates
Stormwater infiltration systems (SIS) have been built in urban areas to reduce the environmental impacts of stormwater runoff. Infiltration basins allow the transfer of stormwater runoff to aquifers but their abilities to retain contaminants depend on vadose zone properties. This study assessed the influence of vadose zone thickness (VZT) on the transfer of inorganic nutrients (PO43−, NO3−, NH4+), dissolved organic carbon (total -DOC- and biodegradable -BDOC-) and bacteria. A field experiment was conducted on three SIS with a thin vadose zone (<3 m) and three SIS with a thick vadose zone (>10 m). Water samples were collected at three times during a rainy period of 10 days in each infiltration basin (stormwater runoff), in the aquifer impacted by infiltration (impacted groundwater) and in the same aquifer but upstream of the infiltration area (non-impacted groundwater). Inorganic nutrients, organic matter, and dissolved oxygen (DO) were measured on all water samples. Bacterial community structures were investigated on water samples through a next-generation sequencing (NGS) scheme of 16S rRNA gene amplicons (V5-V6). The concentrations of DO and phosphate measured in SIS-impacted groundwaters were significantly influenced by VZT due to distinct biogeochemical processes occurring in the vadose zone. DOC and BDOC were efficiently retained in the vadose zone, regardless of its thickness. Bacterial transfers to the aquifer were overall low, but data obtained on day 10 indicated a significant bacterial transfer in SIS with a thin vadose zone. Water transit time and water saturation of the vadose zone were found important parameters for bacterial transfers. Most bacterial taxa (>60%) from impacted groundwaters were not detected in stormwater runoff and in non-impacted groundwaters, indicating that groundwater bacterial communities were significantly modified by processes associated with infiltration (remobilization of bacteria from vadose zone and/or species sorting).