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Assessment of groundwater vulnerability using a combined approach of multivariate statistics, numerical modeling and isotopes

Groundwater and in particular alluvial aquifers are of major importance for drinking water supply. Even though groundwater is in general well protected, contamination from infiltrating surface waters might be of concern.

In this study groundwater is extracted from quaternary deposits and used as drinking water without further treatment. Occasionally, the extraction well is affected by microbial pollution, thus requiring further purification. The study aims at a better understanding of the hydrogeological system in general and the identification of governing processes when microbial contamination occurs in particular. For this purpose an approach combining multivariate statistics, numerical groundwater flow model, and the analysis of stable isotopes 18O/2H is chosen.

Using multivariate statistical analysis techniques, the aquifer is characterized by its hydrochemical constitution. Also routinely measured hydrologic and hydraulic parameters (precipitation, groundwater head,..) are evaluated as proxy for surface water infiltration. The numerical model is calibrated with groundwater heads and isotopes, allowing for delineation of different flow patterns under varying conditions. A special emphasis is set upon the system behavior during extreme events. Therefore water sampling at a high temporal resolution during a flood event will support the transient flow model.

Recent studies show that artificial sweeteners – used as sugar substitutes in food and beverages – are perfect tracers for domestic wastewater in the aquatic environment. As most rivers receive discharge from wastewater treatment plants, artificial sweeteners can be used for tracking surface waters in groundwater. We use artificial sweeteners to further identify river water infiltration, contamination and storm water events and the influence of waste water on the drinking water supply. In combination with the numerical flow model groundwater provenance can be determined.

PI: Thilo Hofmann
Ph.D. Student: Andrea Bichler

Department of Environmental Geosciences
University of Vienna

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1090 Vienna
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F: +43-1-4277-9 533
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