Advertisement

Groundwater Arsenic in Nepal: Occurrence and Temporal Variation

  • T. H. BrikowskiEmail author
  • L. S. Smith
  • A. Neku
Chapter
Part of the Springer Hydrogeology book series (SPRINGERHYDRO)

Abstract

In Nepal, over two million people are exposed to excessive natural arsenic (10–1500 ppb) in groundwater. The majority of these people live in the agricultural Terai region, on the edge of Ganges floodplain at the base of the Himalayan foothills. The remainder are exposed via deep wells in the Kathmandu Valley in a primarily urban setting. Tube wells down to 50 m in the Terai commonly exhibit cyclical, temporally correlated variation in dissolved arsenic, iron, and other species. In Nawalparasi, the most arsenic-affected district, these wells tap thin (2 m) gray sand aquifers embedded in a thick (>50 m) sequence of organic clays. Monsoon recharge refreshes these aquifers, temporarily minimizing dissolved arsenic concentrations. Post-monsoon, average groundwater compositions exhibit increasing water–rock interaction with time (increasing TDS and cation exchange, forming increasingly Na-HCO waters) and increasing dissolved arsenic and iron. Collectively these observations strongly support a model of reductive mobilization of arsenic from adjacent clays into aquifers in the Terai, tempered by repeated flushing during periods of heavy precipitation. In Kathmandu Valley, moderately elevated arsenic (up to 150 ppb) may be leached from overlying silts and clays, but concentrations remain constant throughout the year. In the Terai, effective mitigation is challenging, depending primarily on well-switching (marking contaminated wells) and installation of household point-of-use filters. Mitigation in the urban setting will emphasize blending with clean surface water from mountain reservoirs.

Keyword

Arsenic Nepal South Asia Hydrology 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The original research summarized in this review was supported by NSF Grant INT-0331798 (Brikowski) and Fulbright Senior Scientist (Smith) and Fulbright Visiting Scientist (Shrestha) grants. Field support provided by Filters for Families INGO, Kathmandu, Nepal. Travel supported by Geological Society of America Student Research Grant (Neku), drilling supported by WaterAid Nepal, chemical analysis supported by UNICEF/DWSS. Tracer tests supported by UNDP SGP Grant (Smith). UTD Geosciences Contribution #1308.

References

  1. Acharyya K, Lahiri S, Raymahashay BC, Bhowmik A (2000) Cases and solutions: arsenic toxicity of groundwater in parts of the Bengal basin in India and Bangladesh: the role of quaternary stratigraphy and Holocene sea-level fluctuation. Environ Geol 39:1127–1137. URL: http://link.springer-ny.com/link/service/journals/00254/bibs/0039010/00391127.htmCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker T (2004) Deep tube well study Nepal 2003–2004. Technical report. Water Aid Nepal, Kathmandu, NepalGoogle Scholar
  3. Brikowski TH, Leybourne MI, Shrestha SD, Bhattacharya P, Neku A, Smith L (2005) Geochemical indicators of groundwater arsenic mobilization mechanisms in the Ganges floodplain of Nepal, vol 38, No 8. Geological Society of America Abstracts with ProgramsGoogle Scholar
  4. Brikowski TH, Neku A, Shrestha SD, Smith LS (2014) Hydrologic control and temporal variability of groundwater arsenic in the Ganges floodplain of Nepal. J Hydrol 518.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2013.09.021 (Special Issue: Arsenic in hydrological processes: Speciation, bioavailability and management)
  5. Chakraborti D, Mukherjee SC, Pati S, Sengupta MK, Rahman MM, Chowdbury UK, Lodh D, Chanda CR, Chakraborti AK, Basu GK (2003) Arsenic ground-water contamination in Middle Ganga Plain, Bihar, India: a future danger? Environ Health Perspect 111:1194–1201. URL: http://ehpnet1.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2003/5966/abstract.htmlCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chapagain SK, Shrestha S, Nakamura T, Pandey VP, Kazama F (2009) Arsenic occurrence in groundwater of Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Desalin Water Treat 4:248–254 (2nd International conference on wastewater treatment in small communities (SmallWat07), Seville, Spain, 11–15 Nov 2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chapagain SK, Pandey VP, Shrestha S, Nakamura T, Kazama F (2010) Assessment of deep groundwater quality in Kathmandu Valley using multivariate statistical techniques. Water Air Soil Pollut 210:277–288.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-009-0249-8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chowdhury U, Biswas B, Chowdhury T, Samanta G, Mandal B, Basu G, Chanda C, Lodh D, Saha K, Mukherjee S, Roy S, Kabir S, Quamruzzaman Q, Chakraborti D (2000) Groundwater arsenic contamination in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. Environ Health Perspect 108:393–397.  https://doi.org/10.2307/3454378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dhar R, Zheng Y, Stute M, van Geen A, Cheng Z, Shanewaz M, Shamsudduha M, Hoque M, Rahman M, Ahmed K (2008) Temporal variability of groundwater chemistry in shallow and deep aquifers of Araihazar, Bangladesh. J Contam Hydrol 99:97–111.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jconhyd.2008.03.007CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. DHPE (1999) Groundwater studies for arsenic contamination in Bangladesh. Main (project) report, Bangladesh Department of Public Health Engineering, British Geological Survey, London, England. URL: http://www.bgs.ac.uk/arsenic/Bangladesh/
  11. Dowling CB, Poreda RJ, Basu AR, Peters SL (2002) Geochemical study of arsenic release mechanisms in the Bengal Basin groundwater. Water Resour Res 38:18.  https://doi.org/10.1029/2001wr000968CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duan Y, Gan Y, Wang Y, Deng Y, Guo X, Dong C (2015) Temporal variation of groundwater level and arsenic concentration at Jianghan Plain, central China. J Geochem Explor 149:106–119.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gexplo.2014.12.001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gautam D, Prajapati RN (2014) Drawdown and dynamics of groundwater table in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Open Hydrol J 8:17–26. URL: http://benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TOHYDJ/TOHYDJ-8-17.pdfCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guillot S, Garçon M, Weinman B, Gajurel A, Tisserand D, France-Lanord C, Geen Av, Chakraborty S, Huyghe P, Upreti BN, Charlet L (2015) Origin of arsenic in late Pleistocene to Holocene sediments in the Nawalparasi district (Terai, Nepal). Environ Earth Sci 74:2571–2593.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-015-4277-yCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gupta S (1997) Himalayan drainage patterns and the origin of fluvial megafans in the Ganges foreland basin. Geology 25:11–14.  https://doi.org/10.1130/0091-7613(1997)025<0011:HDPATO>2.3.CO;2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gurung JK, Ishiga H, Khadka MS (2005) Geological and geochemical examination of arsenic contamination in groundwater in the Holocene Terai Basin, Nepal. Environ Geol 49:98–113.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00254-005-0063-6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gurung JK, Ishiga H, Khadka MS, Shrestha NR (2007) The geochemical study of fluvio-lacustrine aquifers in the Kathmandu Basin (Nepal) and the implications for the mobilization of arsenic. Environ Geol 52:503–517.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00254-006-0483-yCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Harvey C, Ashfaque K, Yu W, Badruzzaman A, Ali M, Oates P, Michael H, Neumann R, Beckie R, Islam S, Ahmed M (2006) Groundwater dynamics and arsenic contamination in Bangladesh. Chem Geol 228:112–136.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemgeo.2005.11.025 (Annual conference of the Soil-Science-Society-of-America, Denver, CO, 03 Nov 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hoque M, McArthur J, Sikdar P (2012) The palaeosol model of arsenic pollution of groundwater tested along a 32 km traverse across West Bengal, India. Sci Total Environ 431:157–165.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.05.038CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hussam A, Munir AKM, Alauddin M, Hossain ZA, Khan AH, Chusuei CC (2007) A simple and effective arsenic filter based on composite iron matrix: development and deployment studies for groundwater of Bangladesh. J Environ Sci Health Part A 42:1869–1878.  https://doi.org/10.1080/10934520701567122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Huyghe P, Mugnier JL, Gajurel AP, Delcaillau B (2005) Tectonic and climatic control of the changes in the sedimentary record of the Karnali River section (Siwaliks of western Nepal). Island Arc 14:311–327.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1738.2005.00500.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. JICA/ENPHO (2005) Arsenic vulnerability in groundwater resources in Kathmandu Valley. Final report, KathmanduGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnston SG, Diwakar J, Burton ED (2015) Arsenic solid-phase speciation in an alluvial aquifer system adjacent to the Himalayan forehills, Nepal. Chem Geol 419:55–66.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemgeo.2015.10.035CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Khatiwada NR, Takizawa S, Tran TVN, Inoue M (2002) Groundwater contamination assessment for sustainable water supply in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Water Sci Technol 46(147–154):34Google Scholar
  25. Kumar M, Kumar P, Ramanathan AL, Bhattacharya P, Thunvik R, Singh UK, Tsujimura M, Sracek O (2010) Arsenic enrichment in groundwater in the middle Gangetic Plain of Ghazipur District in Uttar Pradesh, India. J Geochem Explor 105:83–94.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gexplo.2010.04.008CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Malla P, Joshi A, Taylor J (2007) The state of Arsenic in Nepal. Technical report. NASC (Nepal Arsenic Steering Committee)/UNICEF, Kathmandu, Nepal, 116 pp and CD-ROMGoogle Scholar
  27. McArthur JM, Ravenscroft P, Safiulla S, Thirlwall MF (2001) Arsenic in ground-water; testing pollution mechanisms for sedimentary aquifers in Bangladesh. Water Resour Res 37:109–118.  https://doi.org/10.1029/2000WR900270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McArthur J, Banerjee D, Hudson-Edwards K, Mishra R, Purohit R, Ravenscroft P, Cronin A, Howarth R, Chatterjee A, Talukder T, Lowry D, Houghton S, Chadha D (2004) Natural organic matter in sedimentary basins and its relation to arsenic in anoxic ground water: the example of West Bengal and its worldwide implications. Appl Geochem 19:1255–1293.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeochem.2004.02.001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Muehe EM, Kappler A (2014) Arsenic mobility and toxicity in south and south-east Asia a review on biogeochemistry, health and socio-economic effects, remediation and risk predictions. Environ Chem 11:483–495.  https://doi.org/10.1071/EN13230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mukherjee A, Sengupta MK, Hossain MA, Ahamed S, Das B, Nayak B, Lodh D, Rahman MM, Chakraborti D (2006) Arsenic contamination in groundwater: a global perspective with emphasis on the Asian scenario. J Health Popul Nutr 24(142–163):154Google Scholar
  31. Nakayama K, Ulak PD (1999) Evolution of fluvial style in the Siwalik Group in the foothills of the Nepal Himalaya. Sediment Geol 125:205–224.  https://doi.org/10.1016/s0037-0738(99)00012-3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. NASC (2012) The state of Arsenic in Nepal-2011. Technical report. Nepal National Arsenic Steering Committee/National Red Cross Society, Kathmandu, Nepal (Draft available 2012, scheduled for official release in 2017)Google Scholar
  33. NASC/UNICEF (2007) Report on blanket tube well testing in Sunsari, Bara, Dhanusha, Rupandehi, Kailali & Kanchanpur Districts-2007. Technical report. Nepal Arsenic Study Committe/UNICEF, Kathmandu. URL: http://un.org.np/sites/default/files/report/tid_68/2010-10-01-UNICEF-Arseinic-Water.pdf (Prepared by Genesis Consultancy, Ltd.)
  34. Nath B, Berner Z, Mallik SB, Chatterjee D, Charlet L, Steuben D (2005) Characterization of aquifers conducting groundwaters with low and high arsenic concentrations: a comparative case study from West Bengal, India. Mineral Mag 69:841–854.  https://doi.org/10.1180/0026461056950292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Neku A (2011) Hydrogeological investigation of arsenic contaminated groundwater in Nawalparasi, Nepal. PhD dissertation, Geosciences Dept., U. Texas-DallasGoogle Scholar
  36. Neku A, Tandukar N (2003) An overview of arsenic contamination in groundwater of Nepal and its removal at household level. J Physique IV 107:941–944Google Scholar
  37. Neku A, Tandukar N, Yokota H (2004) Relationship of arsenic with other key geo-chemical parameters in groundwater of Nawalparashi/Nepal. In: Smith LS (ed) Proceedings of the NSF-fulbright workshop on groundwater arsenic in Nepal, WaterAid Nepal, Filters for Families, Kathmandu, NepalGoogle Scholar
  38. Pandey VP, Kazama F (2011) Hydrogeologic characteristics of groundwater aquifers in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Environ Earth Sci 62:1723–1732.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-010-0667-3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Polizzotto ML, Kocar BD, Benner SG, Sampson M, Fendorf S (2008) Near-surface wetland sediments as a source of arsenic release to ground water in Asia. Nature 454:505–508.  https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07093CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. R Core Team (2013) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL: http://www.R-project.org/
  41. Rao GK, Pathak D (1996) Hydrogeological conditions in the Terai plain of Nawalparasi District, Lumbini zone, Nepal, with special reference to groundwater recharge. J Appl Hydrol 9:69–75Google Scholar
  42. Sakai H, Fujii R, Sugimoto M, Setoguchi R, Paudel MR (2016) Two times lowering of lake water at around 48 and 38 ka, caused by possible earthquakes, recorded in the Paleo-Kathmandu lake, central Nepal Himalaya. Earth Planets Space 68:1–10.  https://doi.org/10.1186/s40623-016-0413-5
  43. Schaefer MV, Guo X, Gan Y, Benner SG, Griffin AM, Gorski CA, Wang Y, Fendorf S (2017) Redox controls on arsenic enrichment and release from aquifer sediments in central Yangtze River Basin. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 204:104–119.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2017.01.035CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shrestha SD, Karmacharya R, Rao GK (1996) Estimation of groundwater resources in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. J Groundwater Hydrol 38:29–40.  https://doi.org/10.5917/jagh1987.38.29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Shrestha BR, Whitney JW, Shrestha KB (eds) (2004a) State of arsenic in Nepal - 2003. Environment and Public Health Organization-National Arsenic Steering Committee (Nepal), USGS, Kathmandu (Includes CD-ROM)Google Scholar
  46. Shrestha SD, Brikowski TH, Smith LS, Shei TC (2004b) Grain size constraints on arsenic concentration in shallow wells of Nawalparasi, Nepal. In: Smith LS (ed) Fulbright-NSF workshop on groundwater arsenic in Nepal, U.S. Fulbright Fellowship Program, Kathmandu, NepalGoogle Scholar
  47. Shrestha SM, Rijal K, Pokhrel K (2013) Arsenic contamination in the deep and shallow groundwater of Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Sci World 11.  https://doi.org/10.3126/sw.v11i11.8548
  48. Smith LSS (ed) (2004) Fulbright-NSF workshop on groundwater arsenic in Nepal, U.S. Fulbright Fellowship Program, Kathmandu, NepalGoogle Scholar
  49. Smith LSS, Shrestha SD, Brikowski TH, Shei TC (2004) Abundant arsenic sources are discovered in the Nepal Himalayas. Nepal J Geol 8Google Scholar
  50. Suenaga K, Ganzawa N, Mato Y, Neku A, Tandukar N, Wakabayashi M (2004) Report on hydrogeological investigation at Kunuwar Village in Nepal. In: The 9th forum on arsenic contamination of groundwater in Asia. Asia Arsenic Network and Research Group for Applied Geology, Yokohama, JapanGoogle Scholar
  51. Suresh N, Ghosh SK, Kumar R, Sangode SJ (2004) Clay-mineral distribution patterns in late Neogene fluvial sediments of the Subathu sub-basin, central sector of Himalayan foreland basin: implications for provenance and climate. Sediment Geol 163:265–278.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sedgeo.2003.07.006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tandukar N, Bhattacharya P, Mukherjee AB et al (2001) Preliminary assessment of arsenic contamination in groundwater in Nepal. In: Proceedings of the international conference on arsenic in the Asia-Pacific region: managing arsenic for our future. CSIRO-Land and Water, Adelaide, South Australia, pp 103–105Google Scholar
  53. Upreti B (1999) An overview of the stratigraphy and tectonics of the Nepal Himalaya. J Asian Earth Sci 17:577–606.  https://doi.org/10.1016/s1367-9120(99)00047-4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. van Geen A, Zheng Y, Versteeg R, Stute M, Horneman A, Dhar R, Steckler M, Gelman A, Small C, Ahsan H, Graziano JH, Hussain I, Ahmed KM (2003) Spatial variability of arsenic in 6000 tube wells in a 25 km2 area of Bangladesh. Water Resour Res 39:1140.  https://doi.org/10.1029/2002WR001617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. van Geen A, Zheng Y, Cheng Z, Aziz Z, Horneman A, Dhar R, Mailloux B, Stute M, Weinman B, Goodbred S, Seddique A, Hoque M, Ahmed K (2006) A transect of groundwater and sediment properties in Araihazar, Bangladesh: further evidence of decoupling between As and Fe mobilization. Chem Geol 228:85–96.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemgeo.2005.11.024CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Warner NR, Levy J, Harpp K, Farruggia F (2008) Drinking water quality in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley: a survey and assessment of selected controlling site characteristics. Hydrogeol J 16:321–334.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10040-007-0238-1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Williams VS, Whitney JW, Breit JW, George N, Yount JC, Amatya SMC (2004) Preliminary observations on the geology and geochemistry of arsenic-bearing sediments in Nawalparasi District, Nepal. In: Kansakar DR (ed) Summary final report of arsenic testing and finalization of groundwater legislation project and proceeding of the seminar on arsenic study in groundwater of Terai, USGS/GWRDP/The World Bank. World Bank, World Bank, pp 73–83Google Scholar
  58. Yadav IC, Devi NL, Singh S (2015) Spatial and temporal variation in arsenic in the groundwater of upstream of Ganges River Basin, Nepal. Environ Earth Sci 73:1265–1279.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-014-3480-6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Yin A, Dubey C, Kelty T, Webb A, Harrison T, Chou C, Clrier J (2010) Geologic correlation of the Himalayan orogen and Indian craton: Part 2. Structural geology, geochronology, and tectonic evolution of the Eastern Himalaya. Geol Soc Am Bull 122:360–395.  https://doi.org/10.1130/b26461.1CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geosciences DepartmentThe University of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA
  2. 2.Filters for FamiliesDenverUSA
  3. 3.Association of Professional Geoscientists of OntarioTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations