Groundwater resources in a Mediterranean mountainous region: environmental impact of road de-icing

  • J. Espinha Marques
  • J. M. Marques
  • A. Carvalho
  • P. M. Carreira
  • R. Moura
  • C. Mansilha
Original Article


Water from mountainous regions is a strategic natural resource. In Mediterranean mountainous regions, which, in many cases, correspond to protected areas, high-altitude roads are often the main threat to the sustainability of water resources. In these regions, the regular socioeconomic functioning requires frequent road de-icing operations which normally consist of spreading NaCl and other chemicals, such as CaCl2, in pavements. The main purpose of this research is to assess the environmental impact of road de-icing on groundwater resources in a Mediterranean mountainous region and to describe it by means of a hydrogeological conceptual model. The research focused in a cross-sectional sector located in Serra da Estrela (Central Portugal), where a hydrogeological inventory was carried out, followed by hydrogeochemical and hydrogeophysical studies. The results clearly identify different hydrogeochemical signatures in polluted (Cl–Na facies and higher EC) and unpolluted (HCO3–Na, Cl–Na, and very low EC). The relation of hydrogeochemistry and altitude is complex and depends on both natural processes (namely, water–rock interaction) and anthropic processes (de-icing operations). The hydrogeophysical survey systematically identified the presence of a pollution plume migrating downstream from roads.


Groundwater pollution Road de-icing Water resources protection Mountain hydrology 



This work was developed with funding provided by the Institute of Earth Sciences (ICT), under contracts UID/GEO/04683/2013 with FCT (the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation), and COMPETE POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007690. CERENA/IST thankfully acknowledges the FCT support through the UID/ECI/04028/2013 Project, and C2TN/IST gratefully acknowledges the FCT support through the UID/Multi/04349/2013. The authors acknowledge the Portuguese Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF) for supporting field work as well as the anonymous referees for their constructive suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Ciências da Terra e Departamento de Geociências, Ambiente e Ordenamento do Território, Faculdade de CiênciasUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.CERENA, Instituto Superior TécnicoUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.MatosinhosPortugal
  4. 4.C2TN, Campus Tecnológico e Nuclear, Instituto Superior TécnicoUniversidade de LisboaBobadela LRSPortugal
  5. 5.Instituto Nacional de Saúde Doutor Ricardo JorgePortoPortugal
  6. 6.REQUIMTEUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal

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