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Exposure and Health

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 109–123 | Cite as

Groundwater Quality for Drinking and Irrigation Purposes and Potential Health Risks Assessment: A Case Study from Semi-Arid Region of South India

  • Narsimha AdimallaEmail author
S.I. : Drinking Water Quality and Public Health

Abstract

To determine the groundwater quality in the rapidly urbanizing region of Telangana State, South India, 194 groundwater samples were collected and analyzed for evaluating the groundwater quality using a geographic information system (GIS) technique. Cations, viz., calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium; and anions such as bicarbonate, carbonate, chloride, nitrate, sulfate, and fluoride were analyzed using standard procedures. The nitrate concentrations varied from 4 to 440 mg/L, with a mean of 73 mg/L. It is noticed that 48% of the groundwater samples showed nitrate concentrations higher than the maximum permissible limit recommended by World Health Organization (WHO) and Bureau of Indian Standards. The high fluoride concentrations in about 57% of the samples exceeded the maximum permissible limit of 1.5 mg/L. High fluoride concentrations are attributed to geogenic source i.e., rock–water interactions with fluorine-bearing minerals present in the granites of the study region. Interpretation of chemistry using Piper diagram indicated that Ca2+–Mg2+–Cl, Ca2+–Na+–HCO3 and Ca2+–HCO3 were the most predominant water types in the study region. The data plotted in the US Salinity Laboratory diagram which revealed that most of the samples fell in the category of C2S2 and C2S3, indicated that the groundwater suitable for irrigation purposes. In additional, health risk assessments were performed and evaluated using the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), to determine the risk of noncarcinogenic disease due to fluoride and nitrate in drinking water. Ingestion health risks were estimated for adults (females and males) and children. Results indicated that children were more exposed to health risk, due to intake of high contaminated drinking water with respective of nitrate and fluoride in the study area.

Keywords

Drinking and irrigation suitability Groundwater quality Health risk assessment South India 

Introduction

Groundwater supports about two-thirds of the world’s population by supplying freshwater for drinking and other house need applications (Li et al. 2018a; Adimalla et al. 2018a). In India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, approximately more than one billion people rely on groundwater (Adimalla et al. 2018b; Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2018; Li et al. 2012, 2014) for various usages; especially drinking and irrigation. Hence, knowledge of hydrochemical characteristics and groundwater quality is indispensable to understand water suitability for various purposes (Li et al. 2017a). Permissible limits of various ions in groundwater for drinking purposes are given by the World Health Organisation (WHO 2006) and (BIS 1991). If chemical ions are in excess of these limits, they might cause health problems when consumed. It is therefore essential to understand the groundwater quality and its suitability for drinking and irrigation purposes. However, this is one of the major challenges for groundwater scientists to provide quality analysis and its suitability for various purposes (Adimalla et al. 2018a; Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2017, 2018). The groundwater quality depends on lithological, pedogeochemical compositions, human activities and various geochemical compositions of the rocks (Adimalla et al. 2018b; Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2018; Narsimha and Sudarshan 2013; Li et al. 2017a).

In the last a few decades, there has been an incredible increase in the demand for freshwater resource due to rapid population growth and industrialization (Adimalla et al. 2018a; Narsimha and Sudarshan 2017b; Li et al. 2012; Li and Qian 2018; Adimalla and Li 2018). Therefore, a number of researchers focused on groundwater quality in different regions. Krishnakumar et al. (2014) conducted a study on groundwater quality in and around Vedaraniyam, South India, and found that the groundwater was contaminated by acute usages of pesticides in agricultural regions. El Alfy et al. (2015) extensively studied on groundwater quality and its pollution assessment using multivariate geostatistical techniques in arid areas, Saudi Arabia, and noticed that dissolution of various minerals, evaporation, and human impact on the aquifers deteriorated the groundwater quality. Ayadi et al. (2018) investigated the geochemical assessment of groundwater quality in Northwestern Tunisia. They stated that the chemical weathering of the host rocks, mineral dissolution, carbonate dissolution, ion-exchange and anthropogenic activities mainly influenced the quality of groundwater chemistry. Bhardwaj and Sen Singh (2011) conducted a detailed study on the surface and groundwater quality characterization in Deoria District, Ganga Plain, India. Subba Rao et al. (2012) investigated the geochemistry and quality of groundwater in the Gummanampadu sub-basin, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, India. Kumar et al. (2009) studied temporal variation in groundwater quality and compared its suitability for irrigation and drinking purposes in the Patiala and Muktsar districts of Punjab, India, while Ravikumar et al. (2011) examined groundwater quality for drinking and irrigation purposes in the Markandeya River basin in India. Many other researchers (Li et al. 2012, 2017b; Subba Rao et al. 2012) have focused on the methods adopted for groundwater quality assessment. The major ion concentrations of groundwater of different areas of India carried out by various researchers are presented (Supplementary Table 1). Especially, in Telangana region, a few studies emphasized on the occurrence and distribution of fluoride contamination in groundwater (Adimalla et al. 2018a, b, c; Narsimha and Rajitha 2018; Narsimha and Sudarshan 2018a; 2017a, b, 2013; Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2017, 2018; Narsimha 2018; Brindha et al. 2011), and none of these studies provided a detailed scientific assessment about groundwater quality for drinking and irrigation purposes.

Moreover, hydrogeochemical characteristics and assessment of groundwater quality using GIS technique have been carried out by many workers (Krishna et al. 2015), because it is one of the prominent methods to delineate the groundwater quality for various purposes. Groundwater quality distribution maps may be used to assist planners, managers, and local officials in evaluating the potential of contamination and as precautionary indication of hazardous zones. GIS has emerged as a dominant tool for accumulating, analyzing, and displaying spatial data, and these data were used for decision making in several areas including geological and geo-environmental fields (Deepesh et al. 2011). The present study has been carried out to assess the groundwater quality from the hard-rock aquifers of Medak region, South India to determine the water suitability for different uses (i.e., drinking and irrigation). The main goal of this study was to develop groundwater quality suitability zones for drinking water and irrigation purposes using GIS techniques to spatially map groundwater constituents. Eventually, human health risk through ingestion of contaminated water in adults (males and females) and children were evaluated in the study region. This study can help in optimizing monitoring networks of groundwater quality and identifying vulnerable zones for policy makers.

Geology and Hydrology of the Study Area

The study area is situated in the western part of Telangana, South India. It is located between 17°27′ and 18° 18′ North latitudes and 77°28′ and 79°10′ East longitudes covering an area of 9699 Sq. Km (Fig. 1). Groundwater occurs under unconfined-to-semiconfined conditions in hard rocks (Archaeans and Deccan traps) and recent alluvial formations. The common groundwater abstraction structures are dug wells, dug-cum-bore wells, and bore wells, and their yields mainly depend on the recharge conditions in the area. The groundwater is recharged largely by precipitation, irrigation infiltration, and canal percolation in the study region (CGWB 2013). Therefore, it is reported that precipitation and irrigation infiltration account for 60 and 42% of the total groundwater recharges, respectively (CGWB 2013). The average annual rainfall of the district is 910 mm. The season-wise rainfall is 82% in southwest monsoon season, and 12% and 6% in northeast monsoon season and summer, respectively.
Fig. 1

Geology and sampling location map of the study area

Precambrian rocks such as, granite, adamellite, tonalite, amphibolite, hornblende biotite schist occupy a major part of the study area (Fig. 1). Except for a portion in the western part of the study region, most of the area is occupied by granites (Fig. 1). The hard rocks, viz., Archaeans and Deccan Traps, occupy 79.35%; soft rocks, viz., laterites 20.63%; and alluvium 0.2%. The study area is predominantly occupied by red soil (Altisols) in the eastern part, black soil (Vertisols) in the northwestern part, and laterite soil (Ultisols) in the southwestern (Zaheerabad area) part of Medak (CGWB 2013). The rocks belonging to the Peninsular Gneissic Complex are identified as from the Archaean age to Palaeoproterozoic age. The area is traversed by pegmatite veins, epidote, quartz veins, and dykes at various places. The landforms in the district are mostly structural, denudational, and fluviatile in origin. In the central and eastern parts, crystalline complex represented by meta-sediments, gneisses, and granites form a distinct Pedi-plain (CGWB 2013; Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2017).

Methodology

Sampling and Analytical Procedure

Groundwater samples were collected from 194 bore/hand pumps during November and December 2014, which are used for drinking and irrigation purposes. One liter polyethylene bottles were rinsed with distilled water followed by deionized water and samples were collected after pumping out water for about 10 min to remove stagnant water from the well and then transferred and stored at 4 °C and analyzed in the wet chemical laboratory in the Applied Geochemistry Department, using standard methods recommended by APHA. The majority of the bore/hand pumps were less than 193 m in depth, which were used for drinking and irrigation in the study region. The groundwater samples were analyzed for various hydrochemical parameters, such as pH, electrical conductivity (EC), total dissolved solids (TDS), total hardness (TH) as CaCO3; cations [calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+), sodium (Na+), and potassium (K+)]; and anions [chloride (Cl), bicarbonate (HCO3), sulfate (SO42−), nitrate (NO3), and fluoride (F)]. EC, TDS, and pH of water samples were measured in the field immediately after the collection of the samples by using the pH/EC/TDS meter (Hanna HI 9811-5). Ca2+ and Mg2+ were determined titrimetrically using standard EDTA. Chloride was estimated by AgNO3 titration. HCO3 was estimated by a titration method using the standard procedure (APHA 1985). Na+ and K+ were measured by flame photometer (Model 130 Systronics Flame Photometer). SO42− and NO3 were determined by colorimetry with an UV–Visible spectrophotometer. The fluoride concentration in water was determined electrochemically, using fluoride ion-selective electrode (APHA 1985).

For the identification of water types, the chemical analysis data of the groundwater samples were plotted on the Piper diagram, using AquaChem software (AquaChem v 4.0). In addition to the above, the evaluation of irrigation groundwater-quality parameters such as sodium adsorption ratio (SAR), residual sodium carbonate (RSC), sodium percentage (Na%), Kelly’s ratio (KR), magnesium hazard ratio (MHR), and permeability index (PI) values of groundwater samples were computed using mathematical calculations.

GIS Analysis

Inverse distance-weighted interpolation (Tabios and Salas 1985) of the chemical data was performed using the spatial analysis module of ArcGIS (version 9.3). The interpolation technique used in the analysis was inverse distance-weighted (IDW) method (Tabios and Salas 1985). Eventually, the results were evaluated in accordance with the drinking water-quality standards recommended by the World Health Organization and the Bureau of Indian Standards (WHO 2006; BIS 1991). The base map of Medak district was digitized from the Survey of India toposheets using ArcGIS 9.3 software. The sample locations were accurately located with the help of Global Positioning System (GPS, Garman eTrex 30) and imported in GIS platform (Fig. 1). An interpolation technique, inverse distance-weighted (IDW) method was used for spatial modeling, and obtain the spatial distribution of groundwater-quality parameters such as pH, TH, TDS, Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, K+, SO42−, NO3, Cl, and F.

Health Risk Assessment (HRA)

The Unites States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA 1989) established an innovative method to assess the human health risk, which has widely been used (Li et al. 2014; Narsimha and Rajitha 2018; Li et al. 2016). Human health risks have increased over the last 10 years, due to intake of contaminated drinking water in arid and semi-arid regions in the India. Hence, it is vital to study the HRA, which reveals an important reference for groundwater environment protection and management (Li et al. 2016, 2018a; Wu and Sun 2016). Human health immediately reacts with water and air which are the principal causes to pose health risk. Therefore, this study aimed at drinking water intake as a main pathway, especially, NO3 and F were used as the parameters for HRA and noncarcinogenic risk calculated according to Eq. (1):
$${\text{Intake}}_{\text{Oral}} = \frac{{{\text{C}}_{\text{w}} \times {\text{IR}} \times {\text{EF}} \times {\text{ED}}}}{{{\text{BW}} \times {\text{AT}}}},$$
(1)
where Intakeoral represents the average daily exposure dose through ingestion of groundwater [mg/kg/day]; Cw is the concentration of a particular pollutant in groundwater (mg/L); IR represents groundwater ingestion rate (L/day; IR = 1.5 L/day for adults and 0.7 L/day); EF represents the exposure frequency (days/year; EF = 365 days/year); ED represents the exposure duration (years; ED = 30 years for adults and 12 years for children), which were obtained from the US 1989. BW represents the average body weight (kg; BW = 65 kg and 55 kg for males and females, respectively, and 18.5 kg for children) (ICMR 2009); and AT represents average exposure time (days; AT = 10,950 days for adults and 4380 days for children).
The hazard quotient (HQ) was applied to evaluate fluoride and nitrate risks using the following Eq. 2:
$${\text{HQ}}_{\text{oral}} = \frac{{{\text{Intake}}_{\text{oral}} }}{{{\text{RfD}}_{\text{oral}} }},$$
(2)
where HQoral and RfDoral represent the hazard quotient and reference dosage, respectively—for noncarcinogenic pollutants through drinking water intake; and oral reference doses of NO3 and F equal to 1.6 mg/kg/day and 0.4 mg/kg/day, respectively, were obtained from the database of the integrated risk information system (US EPA 2012) . If HQoral is greater than 1, it is considered noncarcinogenic risk, while the safe limit for HQoral is equal to 1. Hazard index (HI) indicates the assimilated risks of NO3 and F in drinking water calculated according to Eq. 3 (US EPA 1989; Chen et al. 2017).
$$\sum \left( {\text{HI}} \right) = {\text{HQ}}_{{({\text{Nitrate}})}} + {\text{HQ}}_{{({\text{Fluoride}})}}$$
(3)

Results and Discussion

Groundwater Types

Piper’s trilinear diagram (Piper 1953) is an effective pictorial method to classify the groundwater, based on basic geochemical characters of the constituent ionic concentrations (Fig. 2). Moreover, it is incredibly useful to determine the chemical relationships and geochemical characters in groundwater in more explicit terms (Piper 1953). On the basis of this Piper diagram, groundwater of the study area is classified mainly into six types: (I) Ca2+-HCO3, (II) Na+-Cl, (III) Mixed Ca2+-Na+-HCO3, (IV) mixed Ca2+-Mg2+-Cl, (V) Ca2+-Cl, and finally (VII) Na+-HCO3. The present investigation shows that groundwater consists majorly of calcium–magnesium–chloride types (Ca2+-Mg2+-Cl), calcium–sodium–bicarbonate types (Ca2+-Na+-HCO3), and calcium–bicarbonate (Ca2+-HCO3) types, and a few are of Na+-HCO3 and Na+-Cl water types. Eventually, the Piper diagram (Fig. 2) also suggests that among cations, Mg2+ is predominant in groundwater, due to the weathering of silicate rocks such as granite gneisses, and among anions Cl and partially HCO3 majorly dominate the ionic concentrations in the groundwater. However, a higher number groundwater-sampling locations show the Ca2+-Na+-HCO3 water type, which exhibit the dissolution of carbonates and the weathering of silicate minerals, whereas a limited number of groundwater-sampling locations show the Na+-HCO3 water type.
Fig. 2

Piper trilinear diagram for groundwater samples from the study area

Groundwater Chemistry Evolution Mechanisms

In order to analyze the evolution mechanism of natural water chemistry, Gibbs (1970) designed two semilog diagrams which are now known as the Gibbs diagrams. It is a well-established platform to unfold the mechanism of geochemical relationship of the chemical components of groundwater in different aquifers, in which graphs of TDS versus Cl/(Cl + HCO3) and TDS versus (Na+ + K+)/(Na+ + K+ + Ca2+) for anions and cations are plotted, respectively (Fig. 3). Gibbs diagram (1970) demonstrates three distinct zones, which are rock dominance, precipitation dominance, and evaporation dominance fields (Fig. 3). The results of the present study indicate that the majority of the samples fall in the rock-dominance zone, whereby water–rock interactions gradually increased due to rock-forming minerals, and partially incline toward evaporation dominance (Fig. 3). This is expected due to the increasing rock–water interactions (rock dominance)/the weathering of host rocks and chemical weathering of rock-forming minerals, which cause mineral dissolution, thereby leading to high fluoride concentration in the groundwater of this region.
Fig. 3

Mechanism controlling the groundwaters of rock, precipitation, and evaporation dominance. Plots of a TDS versus Cl/(Cl + HCO3) and b TDS versus (Na+ + K+)/(Na+ + K+ +Ca2+)

Drinking Water Quality

The various parameters, namely, the minimum, maximum, and mean concentrations of physicochemical parameters of groundwater quality, such as pH, electrical conductivity (EC); total dissolved salts (TDS); total hardness (TH); and major anions and cations are presented in Table 1. The analytical results of the samples collected in the study area indicate that the groundwater is mostly alkaline in nature (pH is higher than 7). The pH value of groundwater in the study area varies between 6.6 and 8.79, with an average of 7.60, and only few groundwater samples have values less than 7. The values of pH are found to be in the permissible range of 7–8.5 prescribed for drinking water according to WHO (2006) standards, except six groundwater samples. The pH concentration map reveals that most of the northeastern part of the study area has high alkaline groundwater, covering Chinnakodure, Nanganoor, and Siddipeta mandals (Supplementary Fig. 1). Electrical conductivity (EC) is a measure of an ability to conduct current so that the higher EC designates the enrichment of salts in the groundwater. However, EC shows wide variation (SD 437 µS/cm) ranging between 168 and 3170 µS/cm, with a mean of 845 µS/cm. Furthermore, EC can be classified as type I, if the enrichments of salts are low (EC < 1500 µS/cm); type II, if the enrichment of salts are medium (EC: 1500 and 3000 µS/cm); and type III, if the enrichments of salts are high (EC > 3000 µS/cm; Subba Rao et al. 2012). According to this classification, 91% of samples fall under the type I (enrichment of salts are low), and only 8% of the samples have been shown to be of type III. Higher EC of groundwater depends on the weathering of aquifer material and the influence of anthropogenic activities polluting the groundwater. Eventually, large alterations in EC concentrations are due to the geochemical processes like rainfall infiltration, evaporation, and ion-exchange phenomena.
Table 1

Groundwater samples of study area exceeding the maximum permissible limits (MPLs) prescribed by WHO 2006 for domestic purposes

Water quality parameters

Units

BIS (1991)

WHO (2006)

Concentration in the study area (minimum–maximum)

Average

Standard deviation

Percentage of samples exceeding MPL

Highest Desirable Limit (HDL)

Maximum Permissible Limit (MPL)

Highest Desirable Limit (HDL)

Maximum Permissible Limit (MPL)

pH

6.5

8.5

7.0

8.5

6.6–8.79

7.60

0.45

EC

µS/cm

1500

168–3170

845

437

8

TDS

mg/L

500

2000

500

1500

107–2028

541

279

3

TH

mg/L

100

500

100

500

50–1550

241

142

3

Ca2+

mg/L

75

200

75

200

10–164

68

43

Mg+

mg/L

30

100

30

150

2–680

84

35

13

Na+

mg/L

100

200

14–145

92

58

K+

mg/L

10

1–24

3.3

3.5

5

HCO3

mg/L

300

18–527

219

87

13

Cl

mg/L

250

1000

200

600

24–959

233

171

32

SO42−

mg/L

200

400

200

400

21–328

161

54

22 (HDL)

NO3

mg/L

45

45

4–440

73

67

52

F

mg/L

0.6

1.2

1

1.5

0.2–7.1

1.7

0.9

57

The TDS ranges from 107 to 2028 mg/L, with a mean value of 541 mg/L (Table 1). As per the WHO (2006) standards the highest desirable limit (HDL) of TDS is 500 mg/L and the maximum permissible limit (MPL) of TDS for drinking purpose is 1500 mg/L. Furthermore, 56% of groundwater has TDS below 500 mg/L (HDL) and 43% of groundwater has TDS concentration between 500 to 1500 mg/L (MPL). Thus almost 99% of groundwater is suitable for drinking purpose. According to Davis and De Wiest (1966) classification, the groundwater of the study area is suitable for drinking and also for irrigation purposes (TDS > 3000 mg/L; Table 2). High concentration of TDS is observed in the northern and southern parts of the Medak region (Supplementary Fig. 2). The total hardness (TH) is caused primarily due to the polyvalent cations (mainly calcium and magnesium) present in water. TH in the study area ranges from 50 to 1550 mg/L with a mean of 241 mg/L (Table 1). Moreover, 97% of TH concentration of groundwater is within the permissible limit of 500 mg/L. The classification of groundwater based on TH shows (Table 2) that 64 and 16% of the groundwater samples fall in the hard and very hard water categories, respectively (Sawyer and McCarthy 1967). Total hardness concentration is the highest in the eastern and southern portions of the study area (Supplementary Fig. 3).
Table 2

TDS and TH classification of groundwater of the study area

Parameters

Range

Water type/classification

No. of samples

% of samples

TDS (mg/L) (Davis and Dewiest 1966)

< 500

Desirable for drinking

110

57

500–1000

Permissible for drinking

72

37

1000–3000

Useful for irrigation

12

6

> 3000

Unfit for drinking and irrigation

TDS (mg/L) (Freeze and Cherrey 1979)

< 1000

Fresh

182

94

1000–100,000

Brackish

12

6

10,000–100,000

Saline

> 100,000

Brine

TH (mg/L) (Sawyer and McCarthy 1967)

< 75

Soft

2

1

75–150

Moderately hard

37

19

150–300

Hard

124

64

> 300

Very hard

31

16

Typically, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium concentrations in the groundwater have concentrations larger than 1 mg/L (Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2017). Sodium is the dominant cation, followed by magnesium, calcium, and potassium. High concentrations of sodium and calcium in the groundwater are attributed to cation exchange among minerals. Groundwater in the granitic terrain derives calcium from minerals like feldspars, pyroxenes, and amphiboles, and also from accessory minerals, such as apatite, and fluorite (Adimalla et al. 2018b; Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2017; Li et al. 2016). The sodium concentration ranges from 14 to 145 mg/L, with an average value of 92 mg/L in the groundwater of the study region (Table 1). As per WHO (2006), the maximum permissible limit (MPL) for sodium is 200 mg/L, and the groundwater quality of the study area is within the prescribed limits for drinking purposes (Table 1). However, high sodium concentrations are found in groundwater in the northern part of the study region (Supplementary Fig. 4). The magnesium is found as the dominant cation next to sodium, ranging from 6 to 680 mg/L, with an average value of 84 mg/L (Table 1). Higher concentration of magnesium than that of calcium is attributable to the influences of ferromagnesium minerals present in the rocks of the study region. It is apparent from Supplementary Fig. 5 that the majority of the area has magnesium concentration within its maximum permissible limit (< 150 mg/L), whereas 13% of the groundwater samples have magnesium concentration more than the permissible limit of 150 mg/L, (WHO 2006). Magnesium concentration is the highest (> 150 mg/L) in the southwestern portions of the study region (Supplementary Fig. 5). The concentration of calcium ion ranges from 10 to 164 mg/L, with an average concentration of 68 mg/L (Table 1). The concentration of potassium in the study area varies from 1 to 24 mg/L (Table 1). The maximum allowable limit of potassium ion concentration in groundwater is 10 mg/L as per the WHO (2006) standards, and only 5% of the groundwater samples are exceeding the limit (Table 1). The source for potassium in the groundwater is mainly from the agricultural fertilizers and also from minerals like orthoclase, microcline, and biotite present in granites (Trauth and Xanthopoulos 1997). The spatial distributions of calcium and potassium are depicted in Supplementary Figs. 6 and 7, respectively.

The order of proportional abundance of major anions in the groundwater of the Medak is Cl > HCO32− > SO42− > NO3 > F. Chloride is one of the dominant anions, ranging in concentration from 24 to 959 mg/L, with a mean value of 233 mg/L (Table 1). High chloride concentration (> 200 mg/L) in groundwater produces a salty taste (WHO 2006). In the study area, 32% of the samples have more than 600 mg/L, which strongly indicates that the groundwater in the study area is considerably influenced by human activities, and it might have derived from domestic effluents, fertilizers, septic tanks, and natural sources such as rainfall and weathering of chloride-bearing minerals. Chloride in groundwater may originate from both natural and anthropogenic sources (Kumar et al. 2014). The spatial variation of chloride in groundwater of the study area is illustrated in Supplementary Fig. 8 which shows that southern and northeastern parts of the region has high concentration. Bicarbonate in groundwater is derived primarily from the dissolution of silicate minerals with lesser amounts from the atmospheric sources (Drever and Stillings 1996; Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2018). The concentrations of sulfates and bicarbonate range from 21 to 328 mg/L and 18 to 527 mg/L, respectively, with average values being 161 mg/L and 219 mg/L, respectively (Table 1). Only 22% of groundwater samples exceed the maximum permissible limit of sulfate (Table 1), which is attributed to the contamination by the domestic waste effluents. Overall groundwater samples fall within the maximum permissible limit of 400 mg/L (Supplementary Fig. 9; Table 1).

The NO3 concentration in the groundwater of the study region ranges from 4 to 440 mg/L with a mean of 73 mg/L in the groundwater of the Medak region (Table 1). The analytical data show that NO3 exceeds the desirable limit (45 mg/L) in about 52% of the groundwater samples in the study area (Table 1), and also the spatial distribution of nitrate concentration indicates that the high nitrate concentrations are extensively distributed in groundwater across the study region (Supplementary Fig. 10). In fact, many studies have noticed a high correlation between agriculture and nitrate concentrations in groundwater (Debernardi et al. 2008). The problem of NO3 pollution in the groundwater is not only spread all over in India but also noticed worldwide (Zhang et al. 2018; Adimalla and Li 2018; Li et al. 2014; Debernardi et al. 2008). High concentrations of nitrates (> 45 mg/L) can cause methemoglobinemia, gastric cancer, goiter, birth malformations, and hypertension (Bao et al. 2017; Fan 2011). Many environmental scientists/workers have classified nitrate sources as a nonpoint like chemical fertilizers, and point sources such as septic tanks and sewage systems (Narsimha and Sudarshan 2013; Subba Rao 2002). However, interaction with the people and personal observation during field investigation divulge that people in the region extensively use nitrogenous fertilizers for irrigation purposes. Therefore, elevated nitrate concentration in the groundwater of the study area is mainly derived from the anthropogenic sources like agriculture, domestic sewage, and leakage from septic tanks (Datta and Tyagi 1996; Debernardi et al. 2008; Adimalla et al. 2018a).

World Health Organization has laid down a maximum limit of 1.5 mg/L of fluoride in the drinking water to promote the healthy life. However, in the Indian context, the safe limit of fluoride in drinking water is between limits of 0.6 (minimum) and 1.2 mg/L (maximum) (Table 1; BIS 1991). Lower amount of fluoride (< 0.6 mg/L) than the minimum prescribed limit (0.6 mg/L) causes dental caries, while higher amount of fluoride (> 1.2 mg/L) than the maximum recommended limit (1.2 mg/L) results in fluorosis. This maximal limit protects tooth decay and enhances proper bone growth. Furthermore, the frequency distribution of fluoride concentration in the groundwater of the study area is represented in Fig. 4. The fluoride concentration varied from 0.2 to 7.1 mg/L in the groundwater samples of the study region (Table 1). The investigations that were undertaken in this study have indicated that fluoride levels in more than 57% of the samples (i.e., in 111 samples) exceeded the WHO recommended limit of 1.5 mg/L for drinking purpose (WHO 2006). Around 28.8% (n = 56) of the samples contain fluoride concentration in the range of 2.1–7.1 mg/L, roughly four times higher than the maximum recommended limit of WHO (2006) (1.5 mg/L). The concentration of fluoride in groundwater is high in the northeastern area and in a few pockets scattered in central and western parts (Supplementary Fig. 11). It is confirmed that the abundant fluorine-bearing minerals, particularly fluorite, in granitic rocks of the study area are the dominant source of dissolved fluoride in groundwater (Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2017; Adimalla et al. 2018b; Adimalla and Li 2018; Li et al. 2018c; Wu et al. 2015). For this reason, a number of cases of fluorosis have been reported mostly from the granite and gneissic complex regions of different states such as Telangana (Narsimha and Sudarshan 2018a, b, 2017a, b; Adimalla et al. 2018b; Narsimha and Rajitha 2018), Andhra Pradesh (Subba Rao 2002, 2012), Gujarat (Chinoy et al. 1992), Karnataka (Sumalatha et al. 1999), Rajasthan (Muralidharan et al. 2002), Kerala (Shaji et al. 2007), Madhya Pradesh (Chatterjee and Mohabey 1998), Tamil Nadu (Periakali et al. 2001), etc. In addition, groundwaters with high HCO3 and Na+ contents are usually in alkaline conditions and are supported by previous geochemical observations (Guo et al. 2010; Rafique et al. 2009). The irregular distribution of fluoride in space and time is primarily due to the variations in mineral assemblage of rocks, differential fracture systems, and connected hydrochemical processes in rock–water interactions (Adimalla et al. 2018a, c; Narsimha and Sudarshan 2017a; Narsimha 2018).
Fig. 4

Frequency distribution of fluoride concentration in groundwater of Medak region

Significant correlation exists between NO3 and Cl (r2 = 0.4359; Supplementary Fig. 12) in Medak region of groundwater. Mostly, high chloride and nitrate concentrations affect the groundwater quality all over the world (Adimalla et al. 2018a; Zhang et al. 2018). The present investigation reveals that the high anthropogenic activity is more in the southern and northern parts of the area. As a result, elevated concentrations of NO3 and Cl in groundwater have been found to be present due to the impacts of anthropogenic sources such as intensive disposals of agriculture, domestic, and wastes, and atmospheric nitrogen contamination (Adimalla et al. 2018a; Bao et al. 2017). The Na+ versus Cl scatter diagram (Supplementary Fig. 13a) reveals that the ionic concentrations fall above the 1:1 equiline, indicating that the groundwater composition results from the silicate weathering which is the dominant hydrogeochemical process, while those falling along the equiline are due to both carbonate weathering and silicate weathering, and some fall below the 1:1 equiline, reflecting some carbonate weathering (Pophare and Dewalkar 2007). The (Ca2+ + Mg2+) versus (SO 4 2-  + HCO3) scatter diagram (Supplementary Fig. 13b) clearly elucidates that most of the groundwater samples are below the equiline (1:1), indicating silicate weathering, and this was supported by earlier studies (Datta and Tyagi 1996), and also that few groundwater samples fall above the 1:1 line, which denotes the effect of carbonate and sulfate mineral dissolution. Eventually, it also signifies that the concentrations of sulfate and bicarbonate are influenced by dissolution of silicate-bearing minerals. To better understand the geochemical behavior of major ion concentrations, the relationships between TDS and major cations and anions are portrayed in Supplementary Figs. 14 and 15. TDS versus anion and cation plots illustrate that the ion concentrations Cl (0.1912;  Supplementary Fig. 14b), Na+ (0.1695; Supplementary Fig. 15a), K+ (0.0826; Supplementary Fig. 15c), Ca2+ (0.0821; Supplemnentary Fig. 15b), and NO3 (0.1625; Supplementary Fig. 14a) tend to increase with TDS, whereas those of SO42− (0.0325; Supplementary Fig. 14c), HCO3 (0.0582; Supplementary Fig. 14d), and Mg2+ (0.003; Supplementary Fig. 14d) tend to decrease with TDS. HCO3 and SO42− are relatively negatively correlated with TDS, which indicates lithogenic activity at lower concentrations and elevating anthropogenic contributions at higher concentrations (Datta and Tyagi 1996; Narsimha and Sudarshan 2017b; Narsimha and Sudarshan 2013).

Irrigation Water Quality

In the semi-arid region of Medak, groundwater is the single source of irrigation, and it plays an important role in the economy of rural livelihoods. Therefore, it is essential to understand the suitability of groundwater for irrigation uses. Suitable parameters, like sodium adsorption ratio (SAR; Richards 1954), sodium percentage (%Na; Wilcox 1955), residual sodium carbonate (RSC; Eaton 1950; Raghunath 1987), magnesium hazard ratio (MHR; Raghunath 1987), Kelly ratio (KR; Kelley 1946), and permeability index (PI; Doneen 1964) are calculated as per the following Eqs. (4-9), respectively.
$${\text{SAR}} = \frac{{{\text{Na}}^{ + } }}{{\sqrt {{{({\text{Ca}}^{2 + } + {\text{Mg}}^{2 + } )} \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {{({\text{Ca}}^{2 + } + {\text{Mg}}^{2 + } )} 2}} \right. \kern-0pt} 2}} }}$$
(4)
$$\% {\text{Na}} = \frac{{{\text{Na}}^{2 + } }}{{\left( {{\text{Ca}}^{2 + } + {\text{Mg}}^{2 + } + {\text{Na}}^{ + } + {\text{K}}^{ + } } \right)}} \times 100$$
(5)
$${\text{RSC}} = \left( {{\text{HCO}}_{3}^{ - } + {\text{CO}}_{3}^{2 - } } \right) - \left( {{\text{Ca}}^{2 + } + {\text{Mg}}^{2 + } } \right)$$
(6)
$$MHR = \frac{{Mg^{2 + } }}{{\left( {{\text{Ca}}^{2 + } + {\text{Mg}}^{2 + } } \right)}} \times 100$$
(7)
$${\text{KR}} = \frac{{{\text{Na}}^{ + } }}{{\left( {{\text{Ca}}^{2 + } + {\text{Mg}}^{2 + } } \right)}}$$
(8)
$${\text{PI}} = \frac{{{\text{Na}}^{ + } + \sqrt {{\text{HCO}}_{3}^{ - } } }}{{\left( {{\text{Na}}^{ + } + {\text{Ca}}^{2 + } + {\text{Mg}}^{2 + } } \right)}} \times 100\%,$$
(9)
where all ionic concentrations (Na+, Ca2+, Mg2+, K+, HCO3, and CO32−) are expressed in milliequivalents per liter (meq/L).
Sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) assesses the effect of the sodium hazard in relation to calcium and magnesium concentrations (Li et al. 2018b). Todd (1980) has concluded that SAR is a measure of the suitability of water for use in agricultural, because sodium concentration can decrease the soil permeability and soil structure. The suitability of the groundwater samples were assessed for determination of the SAR through Eq. 4. The calculated SAR values range from 0.25 to 4.0 with an average of 1.48 (Supplementary Table 2). Richards (1954) has classified groundwaters based on SAR, and the classification criteria are presented in Table 3. According to the criteria, all groundwater samples fall under good category for irrigation water quality (Table 3). However, if the SAR value exceeds 10, the irrigation water can cause permeability problems. The analytical data are also plotted on the US salinity diagram proposed by US Salinity Laboratory (1954), where SAR (sodium hazard) is plotted against EC (salinity hazard), and it is widely used for irrigation water-quality assessment (Fig. 5). Moreover, groundwater with salinity hazard (EC) and sodium hazard (SAR) values may be acceptable for irrigation at the low salinity (C1), medium salinity (C2), low sodium hazard (S1), and medium sodium hazard (S2) levels, and the water requires extensive treatment when applied to soil irrigation at the high salinity (C3), very high salinity (C4), high sodium hazard (S3), and very high sodium hazard (S4) levels (Todd 1980; USSL 1954; Fig. 5). The USSL diagram suggests that most of the groundwater samples fall in C2S2 and C2S3 categories, indicating medium salinity–medium sodium hazard and medium salinity–high sodium hazard types of water, respectively. Groundwater of the study area can be utilized for irrigation with the least danger posed by exchangeable sodium. Especially, 35 (18%) groundwater samples are in C3S4 category, which possess high salinity and very high sodium hazard with above medium, and hence could not be used directly on soils without special salinity- and sodium-controlling treatments. Ten (5%) groundwater samples are in C2S4 category, which possess medium salinity and very high alkalinity, and hence cannot be used directly on soils without sodium-controlling treatments. Only one groundwater sample is in C4S4, which possesses very high salinity and alkalinity.
Table 3

Suitability of groundwater for irrigation based on various classifications

Parameters

Range

Water type/classification

No. of samples

% of samples

SAR (Richards 1954)

< 10

Excellent (S1)

194

100

10–18

Good (S2)

18–26

Doubtful (S3)

> 26

Unsuitable (S4)

EC (µS/cm) (Wilcox 1955)

< 250

low

3

1.5

250–750

medium

101

52

750–2250

High

87

45

> 2250

Very high

3

1.5

RSC (Eaton 1950)

< 1.25

Good

190

98

1.25–2.5

Doubtful

3

1.5

> 2.5

Unsuitable

1

0.5

%Na (Wilcox 1955)

< 20

Excellent

56

29

20–40

Good

104

54

40–60

Permissible

32

16

60–80

Doubtful

2

1

> 80

unsuitable

%Na (Eaton 1950)

< 60

Safe

193

99.5

> 60

Unsafe

1

0.5

MHR (Raghunath 1987)

< 50

Suitable

72

37

> 50

Unsuitable

122

63

KR (Kelley 1946)

< 1

Suitable

188

97

> 1

Unsuitable

6

3

Fig. 5

The quality of groundwaters in relation to salinity and sodium hazards (after USSL 1954)

Sodium percentage is a very important parameter in assessment of the suitability of groundwater for irrigation, because it is an indicator of sodium hazard for irrigation water quality. High concentration of sodium may cause the changes in soil permeability (Alam et al. 2012; Wilcox 1955). The plot of analytical data on the Wilcox (1955) diagram relating EC and %Na shows that water samples fall in all the classes (Fig. 6). Classification of groundwater on the basis of sodium percentage is depicted in Table 3. The Wilcox diagram (Fig. 6) reveals that 75% of groundwater samples fall under the excellent-to-good category and about 20% in good-to-permissible category and hence, may be used for irrigation purposes without any water treatment (Fig. 6).
Fig. 6

Ratings of groundwater samples in Medak region on the basis of electrical conductivity and percent of sodium

RSC has widely been used to evaluate the suitability of groundwater for irrigation purposes in all over the world. Particularly, the excessive concentrations of weak acids (sum of carbonate and bicarbonate) in groundwater over the alkaline earths (sum of calcium and magnesium) also influence the suitability of groundwater for irrigation, which is estimated through Eq. 6 (Eaton 1950; Raghunath 1987). Eaton (1950) concluded that the high value of RSC in water leads to an increase in the adsorption of sodium (alkaline nature in soil) and that such alkaline soil becomes infertile. The classification of irrigation water according to the RSC values is presented in Supplementary Table 2, and ranges from 3.50 to − 56.24 with an average value –5.89 in hard-rock aquifers of Medak (Supplementary Table 2). According to the Richard’s classification, about 97% of groundwater samples are having values < 1.25 meq/L, thus being suitable for irrigation, while only 3% (6 groundwater samples) are having values > 2.5 meq/L and thus are unsuitable for irrigation (Table 3). Negative value of RSC indicates high concentrations of calcium and magnesium in the groundwater. Thus, magnesium and calcium concentrations are also vital in evaluating the groundwater quality. Magnesium can give more adverse effects on soils than calcium. Hence, it is essential to assess the magnesium hazard ratio (MHR), and it is calculated using the Eq. (7) (Raghunath 1987). According to magnesium hazard ratio classification, about 37% of groundwater samples are found  to be < 50% making the groundwater suitable for irrigation. 63% of groundwater samples are found  to be > 50%, thus making them unsuitable for irrigation (Table 3). In addition to the above, Kelley’s ratio (KR) is also one of most important parameters for determining suitability of the groundwater for irrigation purposes. KR values in the groundwater samples of the study area varied from 1.43 to 0.03 with an average value of 0.43, and 97% of the samples had KR value below 1, suggesting that water is suitable for irrigation (Table 3), while only 3% of the samples are found to be higher than 1, signifying their adverse effects on irrigation utility (Table 3).

Permeability index (PI) is also one of the important parameters to evaluate the suitability of groundwater for irrigation purpose. Doneen (1964) and Domenico and Schwartz (1990) proposed a method for rating irrigation waters, based on permeability index and total concentration (Fig. 7). The significance and interpretation of quality assessment based on permeability index diagram can be summarized as follows: (a) Class I and II water are categorized as good for irrigation with 75% or more of maximum permeability, and (b) Class III water is unsuitable with 25% of maximum permeability (Table 3). Figure 7 illustrates that 97% of the groundwater is found in the classes I and II, which can be used for irrigation in almost all types of soil, while only 3% of groundwater samples fall under unsuitable category (Class III) for irrigation purpose.
Fig. 7

Permeability Index values showing groundwater quality (Domenico and Schwartz 1990)

Health Risk Assessment

Noncarcinogenic risks of F and NO3 in drinking water are of primary concern to many countries (Nadia et al. 2015; Li et al. 2018a; Adimalla and Li 2018), especially in India, where the majority of the population depends on groundwater for drinking usages. Typically, the groundwater in the study region is contaminated by NO 3 - and F-, and these ions considered as noncarcinogenic risks for human health, for adult males, adult females, and children due to drinking water ingestion were assessed for human HRA and represented as hazard index (HI) that are presented in Supplementary Table 3. Most of the rural area population depend on groundwater utilization to meet majorly drinking and other household needs. It is well documented that people from a number of regions in South India suffer from afflictions due to excess fluorides and nitrates in their drinking water, especially in the form of fluorosis (Adimalla and Li 2018; Subba Rao et al. 2012; Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2017, 2018; Narsimha and Sudarshan 2017a, b; Narsimha and Rajitha 2018; Narsimha and Sudarshan 2018a, b; Narsimha et al. 2018; Brindha et al. 2011). Hence, excessive concentration of fluoride and nitrate in drinking water pose adverse health risks, for which integrated hazard index (HI) evaluation is employed in this study region. The HQ mean concentration of F is less than 1, while the HQ mean concentration of NO3 is above the 1, suggesting that these elements posed little hazard and moderate hazard, respectively. The HI was calculated as the sum of the HQs for fluoride and nitrate (HQfluoride + HQnitrate) and was found to be greater than 1. The HI in adults (males) ranged from 0.133 to 8.870, from 0.146 to 10.293 for adults (females), and from 0.419 to 29.487 for children, with means of 1.492, 1.730, and 4.958 adult males, adult females, and children, respectively. Over 92.27% groundwater samples were higher than the acceptable limit for noncarcinogenic risk (> 1); children were more vulnerable to fluoride and nitrate contaminations in drinking water, while the affected adult males and females were 55.67% and 63.40%, respectively (Table 4). As per the HI risk assessment, human adverse health effects on the order of Children > Females > Males were noticed in the study region (Table 4), the principal cause for which could be the higher fluoride and nitrate concentrations in the groundwater. Similar results were reported by Ahada and Suthar (2017), Narsimha and Rajitha (2018), Adimalla et al. (2018c), and Adimalla and Li (2018) in the other regions of India. Moreover, in certain parts of China, Zhang et al. (2018), Wu and Sun (2016), and Li et al. (2016) also reported that children are more at noncarcinogenic risk than adults.
Table 4

Noncarcinogenic risk for children, females, and males, in the study region

Humans

Hazard index (HI)

Health risk

Number of samples

Percentage of samples

Males

< 1

No risk

86

44.33%

> 1

High risk

108

55.67%

Females

< 1

No risk

71

36.60%

> 1

High risk

123

63.40%

Children

< 1

No risk

15

7.73%

> 1

High risk

179

92.27%

In particular, in India 66 million people, including 6 million children suffer from the deadly disease, “dental and skeletal fluorosis,” through ingestion of excess fluoride in drinking water (Adimalla et al. 2018c; Adimalla and Li 2018). Adimalla and Venkatayogi 2017 discovered that the 10 out of 10 districts in Telangana state have higher than 1.5 mg/L fluoride content in drinking water, due to host rock having abundance of fluoride-bearing minerals. Teotia et al. (1981) estimated that the 12 million tons of the 85 million tons of fluoride deposits on the earth’s crust are found in India. Amazingly, 65% of India’s village people were under the high risk with respect to fluoride in drinking water (Kumaran et al. 1971). The most of the study region is covered by granite and granite gneissic rocks, which have plenty of fluoride-bearing minerals which can cause to enhance the fluoride concentration in groundwater. However, children health is easily deteriorate, due to consumption of higher concentration of fluoride and nitrate content in drinking water. According to previous studies (Bao et al. 2017; Fan 2011), critical exposure to higher concentrations of nitrate through drinking water ingestion can mainly cause “methemoglobinemia” and also it increases the risk of certain types of cancer, such as stomach cancer, gastric, diabetes, spontaneous abortions, and esophageal (Zhang et al. 2018; Nadia et al. 2015).

Conclusions

Groundwater is the chief source for drinking and irrigation purposes in the Medak region which is mainly occupied by hard rocks. Therefore, the present study emphasized on groundwater quality not only for drinking but also irrigation purposes. Parameter concentrations were then compared to those of WHO and BIS standards to confirm the suitability of the groundwater quality for drinking purposes, while for irrigation, different graphical methods were used to evaluate the groundwater quality for irrigation purposes. Moreover, the following conclusions are drawn:
  • The groundwater in the study area is of neutral-to-alkaline quality. The distribution of major ions in the groundwater is found in the following order: Na+>Mg2+>Ca2+>K+ and Cl>HCO3>SO42−>NO3.

  • Nitrate and fluoride concentrations range from 4 to 440 mg/L and 0.2 to 7.1 mg/L, respectively. It is observed that 48% and 57% of groundwater samples are exceeding the maximum allowable limits of 45 mg/L and 1.5 mg/L of NO3 and F, respectively, in the Medak region, which levels are absolutely not suitable for drinking purposes. Intense agriculture activity and fertilizers could be the primary causes for elevated nitrate concentration in the groundwater. The reasons for high fluoride concentrations are attributed to geogenic source i.e., rock–water interactions with fluorine-bearing minerals present in the granites. Irrigation water-quality parameters suggest that the groundwater of the study area is suitable for irrigation purpose.

  • Based on human health risk assessment, it is observed that children are at higher health risk than adults with respective nitrate and fluoride concentrations in the drinking water. The hazard index (HI) values for adult males, adult females, and children range from 0.133 to 8.870, from 0.146 to 10.293, and from 0.419 to 29.487, respectively. Moreover, results of noncarcinogenic risk data reveal that the noncarcinogenic risks for children (92.27%), males (55.67%), and females (63.40%) have exceeded the acceptable limits (HI = 1) recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Therefore, in the study region, children are more exposed to health risk, than adults due to the intake of highly contaminated drinking water with respective concentrations of nitrate and fluorides.

Notes

Acknowledgements

Financial support for this research work by the Department of Science and Technology (DST)–Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) Government of India, New Delhi under the Start-Up Research Grant (Young Scientists) project (SR/FTP/ES-13/2013) is gratefully acknowledged by the author. The author would like to convey his special thanks to the Editors and two unanimous reviewers for their meticulous comments and suggestions which helped to a great extent improve the manuscript.

Supplementary material

12403_2018_288_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 2007 kb)
12403_2018_288_MOESM2_ESM.doc (384 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 383 kb)

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringChang’an UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Subsurface Hydrology and Ecological Effects in Arid Region of the Ministry of EducationChang’an UniversityXi’anChina

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