Human influence on groundwater quality

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Precise and diffuse origins of anthropogenic pollution in groundwater; industry,

Precise and diffuse origins of anthropogenic pollution in groundwater; industry, urban wastewater and agriculture (Source: Burri et al., 2019)

Eawag researchers have identified the major anthropogenic threats and their chief origins in a review article. Intensive agriculture, urban sprawl, the pharmaceutical industry, poor wastewater infrastructure, lack of water-quality data as well as lack of awareness of the meaning of groundwater as a renewable resource are among the most urgent problems. Because groundwater aquifers have varying characteristics, it is still difficult to keep reliable track of the transport of contaminants and to identify their exact origin, the researchers write.

In the article concrete case studies are presented, in order to demonstrate the threats to global groundwater resources - for example the aftermath of mining in South Africa or nitrate accumulation as a result of intensive agriculture in the USA.

The researchers stress the importance of transdisciplinary research and communication across borders, in order to guarantee sustainable groundwater quality all over the world.


Burri, N. M.; Weatherl, R.; Moeck, C.; Schirmer, M. (2019) A review of threats to groundwater quality in the anthropocene, Science of the Total Environment, 684, 136-154 , doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.05.236 , Institutional Repository