Heavy metals (HMs) contamination in rivers has attracted wide concern due to its persistence and potential risks to the natural environment and human health. In this study, eight HMs (As, Hg, Cu, Pb, Ca, Zn, Mn, and Ni) were measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry in 24 water samples to investigate HMs contamination levels in the Xiangxi River of the Yangtze River basin. A geographic information systems kriging interpolation method was used to reveal the spatial distribution of HMs contamination. The results indicate that most HMs occurred at acceptable levels below the Surface Water Quality Standard (GB 3838-2002), with the highest concentration (23.23 mg kg−1) of Mn being observed at sampling site X20. The values of the potential ecological risk index (RI) suggest that high potential ecological risks were present at sampling sites X1, X3, X4, X14, X16, X17, and X24, which reached moderate risk level. The highest value of RI (279.56) was observed at site X17. HM spatial distributions show that upstream pollution is more severe than downstream. The hazard index was below 1 for all HMs except for Mn, indicating that HMs in Xiangxi River pose a low risk to human health. HM source identification was accomplished using principal component analysis and Pearson’s correlation. Cu, Cd, Ni, and Hg originate primarily from agriculture, while Pb, Zn, and As originate primarily from transportation and mining. This research provides a reference on the risks posed by HMs in Xiangxi River and will support efforts to protect and improve water quality in Xiangxi River.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Ali, M. M., Ali, M. L., Islam, M. S., & Rahman, M. Z. (2016). Preliminary assessment of heavy metals in water and sediment of Karnaphuli River, Bangladesh. Environmental Nanotechnology, Monitoring & Management,5, 27–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enmm.2016.01.002.
Bai, J., Zhao, Q., Wang, W., Wang, X., Jia, J., Cui, B., et al. (2019). Arsenic and heavy metals pollution along a salinity gradient in drained coastal wetland soils: Depth distributions, sources and toxic risks. Ecological Indicators,96, 91–98. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.08.026.
Cai, L. M., Wang, Q. S., Luo, J., Chen, L. G., Zhu, R. L., Wang, S., et al. (2018). Heavy metals contamination and health risk assessment for children near a large Cu-smelter in central China. Science of the Total Environment,650, 725–733. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.09.081.
Chai, L., Li, H., Yang, Z., Min, X., Liao, Q., Liu, Y., et al. (2017). Heavy metals and metalloids in the surface sediments of the Xiangjiang River, Hunan, China: Distribution, contamination, and ecological risk assessment. Environmental Science and Pollution Research,24(1), 874–885. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-016-7872-x.
Chen, Y., Jiang, X., Wang, Y., & Zhuang, D. (2018). Spatial characteristics of heavy metals pollution and the potential ecological risk of a typical mining area: A case study in China. Process Safety and Environmental Protection,113, 204–219. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psep.2017.10.008.
Chen, X., & Lu, X. (2018). Contamination characteristics and source apportionment of heavy metals in topsoil from an area in Xi’an city, China. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,151, 153–160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.01.010.
Cheng, Z., Chen, L. J., Li, H. H., Lin, J. Q., Yang, Z. B., Yang, Y. X., et al. (2018). Characteristics and health risk assessment of heavy metals exposure via household dust from urban area in Chengdu, China. Science of the Total Environment,619–620, 621–629. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.11.144.
Chuo, M., Ma, J., Liu, D., & Yang, Z. (2019). Effects of the impounding process during the flood season on algal blooms in Xiangxi Bay in the Three Gorges Reservoir, China. Ecological Modelling,392, 236–249. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2018.11.017.
Elumalai, V., Brindha, K., & Elango, L. (2017). Regional and temporal variation in minor ions in groundwater of a part of a large river delta, southern India. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment,189(7), 305.
Gao, Q., He, G., Fang, H., Bai, S., & Huang, L. (2018a). Numerical simulation of water age and its potential effects on the water quality in Xiangxi Bay of Three Gorges Reservoir. Journal of Hydrology,566, 484–499. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2018.09.033.
Gao, Q., Li, Y., Cheng, Q., Yu, M., Hu, B., Wang, Z., et al. (2016). Analysis and assessment of the nutrients, biochemical indexes and heavy metals in the Three Gorges Reservoir, China, from 2008 to 2013. Water Research,92, 262–274. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2015.12.055.
Gao, L., Wang, Z., Li, S., & Chen, J. (2018b). Bioavailability and toxicity of trace metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, and Zn) in sediment cores from the Shima River, South China. Chemosphere,192, 31–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.10.110.
Gu, Y. G., & Gao, Y. P. (2018). Bioaccessibilities and health implications of heavy metals in exposed-lawn soils from 28 urban parks in the megacity Guangzhou inferred from an in vitro physiologically-based extraction test. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,148, 747–753. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2017.11.039.
Hakanson, L. (1980). An ecological risk index for aquatic pollution control: A sedimentological approach. Water Research,14(8), 975–1001.
Huang, Y., Fu, C., Li, Z., Fang, F., Ouyang, W., & Guo, J. (2019). Effect of dissolved organic matters on adsorption and desorption behavior of heavy metals in a water-level-fluctuation zone of the Three Gorges Reservoir, China. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,185, 109695. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2019.109695.
Hubei Statistical Yearbook. (2017). Hubei Provincial Bureau of Statistics, 2017.
Islam, M. S., Hossain, M. B., Matin, A., & Islam Sarker, M. S. (2018). Assessment of heavy metals pollution, distribution and source apportionment in the sediment from Feni River estuary, Bangladesh. Chemosphere,202, 25–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2018.03.077.
Jiang, L. G., Liang, B., Xue, Q., & Yin, C. W. (2016). Characterization of phosphorus leaching from phosphate waste rock in the Xiangxi River watershed, Three Gorges Reservoir, China. Chemosphere,150, 130–138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.02.008.
Ke, X., Gui, S., Huang, H., Zhang, H., Wang, C., & Guo, W. (2017). Ecological risk assessment and source identification for heavy metals in surface sediment from the Liaohe River protected area, China. Chemosphere,175, 473–481. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.02.029.
Kuang, C., Shan, Y., Gu, J., Shao, H., Zhang, W., Zhang, Y., et al. (2016). Assessment of heavy metals contamination in water body and riverbed sediments of the Yanghe River in the Bohai Sea, China. Environmental Earth Sciences,75(14), 15–20. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-016-5902-0.
Lazo, P., Steinnes, E., Qarri, F., Allajbeu, S., Kane, S., Stafilov, T., et al. (2018). Origin and spatial distribution of metals in moss samples in Albania: A hotspot of heavy metals contamination in Europe. Chemosphere,190, 337–349. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.09.132.
Li, J., Jin, Z., & Yang, W. (2014). Numerical modeling of the Xiangxi River algal bloom and sediment-related process in China. Ecological Informatics,22, 23–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoinf.2014.03.002.
Li, X., Li, Z., Lin, C. J., Bi, X., Liu, J., Feng, X., et al. (2018). Health risks of heavy metals exposure through vegetable consumption near a large-scale Pb/Zn smelter in central China. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,161, 99–110. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.05.080.
Li, S., & Zhang, Q. (2010). Risk assessment and seasonal variations of dissolved trace elements and heavy metals in the Upper Han River, China. Journal of Hazardous Materials,181(1–3), 1051–1058. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2010.05.120.
Li, S., Zhang, J., Guo, E., Zhang, F., Ma, Q., & Mu, G. (2017a). Dynamics and ecological risk assessment of chromophoric dissolved organic matter in the Yinma River Watershed: Rivers, reservoirs, and urban waters. Environmental Research,158, 245–254. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2017.06.020.
Li, S., Zhang, J., Mu, G., Ju, H., Wang, R., Li, D., et al. (2017b). Spatiotemporal characterization of chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) and CDOM–DOC relationships for highly polluted rivers. Water,8(9), 399. https://doi.org/10.3390/w8090399.
Lin, L., Dong, L., Meng, X., Li, Q., Huang, Z., Li, C., et al. (2018). Distribution and sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and phthalic acid esters in water and surface sediment from the Three Gorges Reservoir. Journal of Environmental Sciences,69, 271–280. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jes.2017.11.004.
Lin, L., Li, C., Yang, W., Zhao, L., Liu, M., Li, Q., et al. (2020). Spatial variations and periodic changes in heavy metals in surface water and sediments of the Three Gorges Reservoir, China. Chemosphere,240, 124837. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.124837.
Liu, R., Bao, K., Yao, S., Yang, F., & Wang, X. (2018a). Ecological risk assessment and distribution of potentially harmful trace elements in lake sediments of Songnen Plain, NE China. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,163, 117–124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.07.037.
Liu, Q., Liao, Y., & Shou, L. (2018b). Concentration and potential health risk of heavy metals in seafoods collected from Sanmen Bay and its adjacent areas, China. Marine Pollution Bulletin,131, 356–364. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.04.041.
Liu, J., Liu, Y. J., Liu, Y., Liu, Z., & Zhang, A. N. (2018c). Quantitative contributions of the major sources of heavy metals in soils to ecosystem and human health risks: A case study of Yulin, China. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,164, 261–269. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.08.030.
Liu, R., Wang, Q., Xu, F., Men, C., & Guo, L. (2017). Impacts of manure application on SWAT model outputs in the Xiangxi River watershed. Journal of Hydrology,555, 479–488. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.10.044.
Luo, M., Chen, Z., Yin, D., Jakada, H., Huang, H., Zhou, H., et al. (2016). Surface flood and underground flood in Xiangxi River Karst Basin: Characteristics, models, and comparisons. Journal of Earth Science,27(1), 15–21. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12583-016-0624-5.
Lv, J., & Liu, Y. (2019). An integrated approach to identify quantitative sources and hazardous areas of heavy metals in soils. Science of the Total Environment,646, 19–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.257.
Ma, W., Tai, L., Qiao, Z., Zhong, L., Wang, Z., Fu, K., et al. (2018). Contamination source apportionment and health risk assessment of heavy metals in soil around municipal solid waste incinerator: A case study in North China. Science of the Total Environment,631–632, 348–357. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.03.011.
Ma, L., Yang, Z., Li, L., & Wang, L. (2016). Source identification and risk assessment of heavy metals contaminations in urban soils of Changsha, a mine-impacted city in Southern China. Environment Science and Pollution Resaerch,23(17), 17058–17066. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-016-6890-z.
Marrugo-Negrete, J., Pinedo-Hernandez, J., & Diez, S. (2017). Assessment of heavy metals pollution, spatial distribution and origin in agricultural soils along the Sinu River Basin, Colombia. Environment Research,154, 380–388. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2017.01.021.
Men, C., Liu, R., Xu, F., Wang, Q., Guo, L., & Shen, Z. (2018). Pollution characteristics, risk assessment, and source apportionment of heavy metals in road dust in Beijing, China. Science of the Total Environment,612, 138–147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.08.123.
MEP. (2002). Environmental quality standards for surface water. Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China (MEP).
Qu, L., Huang, H., Xia, F., Liu, Y., Dahlgren, R. A., Zhang, M., et al. (2018). Risk analysis of heavy metals concentration in surface waters across the rural-urban interface of the Wen-Rui Tang River, China. Environmental Pollution,237, 639–649. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.02.020.
Rehman, I. U., Ishaq, M., Ali, L., Khan, S., Ahmad, I., Din, I. U., et al. (2018). Enrichment, spatial distribution of potential ecological and human health risk assessment via toxic metals in soil and surface water ingestion in the vicinity of Sewakht mines, district Chitral, Northern Pakistan. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,154, 127–136. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.02.033.
USEPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency). (2013). Regional screening level (RSL) summary table.
Wang, X., He, M., Xi, J., & Lu, X. (2011). Antimony distribution and mobility in rivers around the world’s largest antimony mine of Xikuangshan, Hunan Province, China. Microchemical Journal,97(1), 4–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.microc.2010.05.011.
Wang, L., Luo, Y., & Dai, Z. (2017). Characteristics and ecological risk assessment of heavy metals in sediments of the Xiangxi River. Journal of Agro-Environment Science,36(8), 1610–1617.
Wang, H., Wu, Q., Hu, W., Huang, B., Dong, L., & Liu, G. (2018a). Using multi-medium factors analysis to assess heavy metals health risks along the Yangtze River in Nanjing, Southeast China. Environmental Pollution,243, 1047–1056. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.09.036.
Wang, Y., Yang, L., Kong, L., Liu, E., Wang, L., & Zhu, J. (2015). Spatial distribution, ecological risk assessment and source identification for heavy metals in surface sediments from Dongping Lake, Shandong, East China. CATENA,125, 200–205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2014.10.023.
Wang, X., Zhang, L., Zhao, Z., & Cai, Y. (2018b). Heavy metals pollution in reservoirs in the hilly area of southern China: Distribution, source apportionment and health risk assessment. Science of the Total Environment,634, 158–169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.03.340.
Wu, Y., Wang, X., Zhou, J., Bing, H., Sun, H., & Wang, J. (2016). The fate of phosphorus in sediments after the full operation of the Three Gorges Reservoir, China. Environmental Pollution,214, 282–289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2016.04.029.
Xu, T., Wang, F., Guo, Q., Nie, X., Huang, Y., & Chen, (2014). Transfer characteristic and source identification of soil heavy metals from water-level-fluctuating zone along xiangxi river, three-gorges reservoir area. Environmental Science,35(4), 1502–1508.
Yan, H., Huang, Y., Wang, G., Zhang, X., Shang, M., Feng, L., et al. (2016). Water eutrophication evaluation based on rough set and petri nets: a case study in Xiangxi-River, Three Gorges Reservoir. Ecological Indicators,69, 463–472. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.05.010.
Zhang, G., Bai, J., Xiao, R., Zhao, Q., Jia, J., Cui, B., et al. (2017a). Heavy metals fractions and ecological risk assessment in sediments from urban, rural and reclamation-affected rivers of the Pearl River Estuary, China. Chemosphere,184, 278–288. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.05.155.
Zhang, Y., Chu, C., Li, T., Xu, S., Liu, L., & Ju, M. (2017b). A water quality management strategy for regionally protected water through health risk assessment and spatial distribution of heavy metals pollution in 3 marine reserves. Science of the Total Environment,599–600, 721–731. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.04.232.
Zhang, Z., Juying, L., Mamat, Z., & QingFu, Y. (2016). Sources identification and pollution evaluation of heavy metals in the surface sediments of Bortala River, Northwest China. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,126, 94–101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2015.12.025.
Zhang, Z., Lu, Y., Li, H., Tu, Y., Liu, B., & Yang, Z. (2018a). Assessment of heavy metals contamination, distribution and source identification in the sediments from the Zijiang River, China. Science of the Total Environment,645, 235–243. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.026.
Zhang, P., Qin, C., Hong, X., Kang, G., Qin, M., Yang, D., et al. (2018b). Risk assessment and source analysis of soil heavy metals pollution from lower reaches of Yellow River irrigation in China. Science of the Total Environment,633, 1136–1147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.03.228.
Zhang, X., Wei, S., Sun, Q., Wadood, S. A., & Guo, B. (2018c). Source identification and spatial distribution of arsenic and heavy metals in agricultural soil around Hunan industrial estate by positive matrix factorization model, principle components analysis and geo statistical analysis. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,159, 354–362. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.04.072.
Zhang, T., Xu, W., Lin, X., Yan, H., Ma, M., & He, Z. (2019). Assessment of heavy metals pollution of soybean grains in North Anhui of China. Science of the Total Environment,646, 914–922. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.335.
Zhang, Y., Yin, C., Cao, S., Cheng, L., Wu, G., & Guo, J. (2018d). Heavy metals accumulation and health risk assessment in soil-wheat system under different nitrogen levels. Science of the Total Environment,622–623, 1499–1508. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.09.317.
Zhang, L., Zhao, B., Xu, G., & Guan, Y. (2018e). Characterizing fluvial heavy metals pollutions under different rainfall conditions: Implication for aquatic environment protection. Science of the Total Environment,635, 1495–1506. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.04.211.
Zhao, X. J., Gao, B., Xu, D. Y., Gao, L., & Yin, S. H. (2017). Heavy metal pollution in sediments of the largest reservoir (Three Gorges Reservoir) in China: A review. Environment Science and Pollution Research,24(26), 20844–20858. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-9874-8.
Zhong, W., Zhang, Y., Wu, Z., Yang, R., Chen, X., Yang, J., et al. (2018). Health risk assessment of HMs in freshwater fish in the central and eastern North China. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,157, 343–349. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.03.048.
Zhou, Y., Aamir, M., Liu, K., Yang, F., & Liu, W. (2018). Status of mercury accumulation in agricultural soil across China: Spatial distribution, temporal trend, influencing factor and risk assessment. Environment Pollution,240, 116–124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.03.086.
Zhu, H., Bing, H., Wu, Y., Zhou, J., Sun, H., Wang, J., et al. (2019). The spatial and vertical distribution of heavy metal contamination in sediments of the Three Gorges Reservoir determined by anti-seasonal flow regulation. Science of the Total Environment,664, 79–88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.02.016.
Zhuang, Q., Li, G., & Liu, Z. (2018). Distribution, source and pollution level of heavy metals in river sediments from South China. CATENA,170, 386–396. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2018.06.037.
This work was supported by the Hubei Province Innovation Group Project (No: 2015CFA021), the Open Research Program of the Engineering Research Center of Eco-environment in Three Gorges Reservoir Region of the Ministry of Education (No: KF2018-03), the Research Fund for Excellent Dissertation of the China Three Gorges University (2020BSPY015), and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (No: 2016YFD0800904).
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Xiong, B., Li, R., Johnson, D. et al. Spatial distribution, risk assessment, and source identification of heavy metals in water from the Xiangxi River, Three Gorges Reservoir Region, China. Environ Geochem Health (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-020-00614-2
- Heavy metal
- Xiangxi River
- Spatial distribution
- Risk assessment