Advancements in hydrochemistry mapping: application to groundwater arsenic and iron concentrations in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India

The area east of Varanasi is one of numerous places along the watershed of the Ganges River with groundwater concentrations of arsenic surpassing the maximum value of 10 parts per billion (ppb) recommended by the World Health Organization in drinking water. Here we apply geostatistics and compositional data analysis for the mapping of arsenic and iron to help in understanding the conditions leading to the occurrence of elevated level of arsenic in groundwater. The methodology allows for displaying concentrations of arsenic and iron as maps consistent with the limited information from 95 water wells across an area of approximately 210 km2; visualization of the uncertainty associated with the sampling; and summary of the findings in the form of probability maps. For thousands of years, Varanasi has been on the erosional side in a meander of the river that is free of arsenic values above 10 ppb. Maps reveal two anomalies of high arsenic concentrations on the depositional side of the valley, which has started seeing urban development. The methodology using geostatistics combined with compositional data analysis is completely general, so this study could be used as a prototype for hydrochemistry mapping in other areas ​
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