European case studies supporting the derivation of natural background levels and groundwater threshold values for the protection of dependent ecosystems and human health

Klaus Hinsby, M. Teresa Condesso de Melo, Mette Dahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The EU Water Framework and Groundwater directives stipulate that EU member states have to assess groundwater chemical status by the use of groundwater threshold values derived for the protection of dependent ecosystems and human health. This paper presents a synthesis of main results of 14 European case studies evaluating a methodology for derivation of natural background levels (NBLs) and groundwater threshold values (TVs) proposed by the EU research project "BRIDGE". The 14 investigated groundwater bodies were selected to represent as many aquifer types, climate settings and European ecoregions as possible within the project group that included partners from 17 EU countries. The selected case study sites include transboundary groundwater bodies, EU Pilot River Basins and other important groundwater systems. Some are known to interact with associated ecosystems, while others do not. The proposed method derives groundwater threshold values based on environmental objectives for dependent ecosystems or groundwater "itself" using relevant reference criteria such as natural background levels, environmental quality standards and drinking water standards. Derived groundwater threshold values for dissolved Cl and As applying drinking water standards as examples of reference values, are compared for all 14 case studies. Additionally, more detailed analyses are conducted for the Odense Pilot River Basin and the Vouga River Basin, where groundwater threshold values for N and P and Cl, As, Cd, Ni, Pb, and Zn, respectively, are derived based on environmental objectives and quality standards for groundwater dependent ecosystems. Results demonstrate that the proposed methodology is operational and may be used to protect human health and the environment. Further they show that groundwater threshold values derived from environmental objectives and environmental quality standards for dependent ecosystems in some cases may be significantly lower than drinking water standards, e.g. for nitrate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume401
Issue number1-3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2008

Keywords

  • Chemical status
  • Ecohydrology
  • Ecosystems
  • Groundwater/surface water interaction
  • Quality standards
  • Reference values
  • Threshold values

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources

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