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Analysis of source water contamination in rural and semi-rural areas in Europe and United States

Congress: 2008
Author(s): G. Grützmacher *, A. Morel-Fatio *, L.Tedesco **, E. Hack **, R. Barr **
* KompetenzZentrum Wasser Berlin, gGmbH ** Indiana University - Perdue University Indianapolis

Keyword(s): trace contaminants, diffuse pollution, surface water, mitigation zones, constructed wetland, riparian corridor, screening methods, pollutant families
AbstractIn the rural and semi-rural environment many sources of contamination may impact surface water quality. In addition to nutrients from agricultural activities, contaminants occurring at low concentration so-called trace contaminants are a growing issue for water quality. To address this issue and investigate mitigation measures, the Berlin Centre of Competence for Water (KompetenzZentrum Wasser Berlin) developed a collaborative research project called Aquisafe, in association with the Indiana University – Perdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), the German Federal Agency for the Environment “Umweltbundesamt” (UBA) and Veolia Water. The project aims at investigating mitigation zones such as constructed wetlands or riparian zones to improve the quality of surface water with respect to diffuse pollution. Before using models and conducting field experiments, the first part of the project is an extensive analysis of the nature, occurrence, and risks of source water contamination in rural and semi-rural areas. This is the subject of the poster. The objectives of this first part of the project are (i) to provide background information on surface water and its use in Europe, particularly regarding drinking water supply, (ii) to investigate the characteristics of the families of pollutants that are potentially of interest, and finally (iii) to select the most relevant trace contaminants to be investigated in future field experiments. To reach these objectives, an extensive literature review was carried out, using different criteria to select the relevant families of pollutants and then the individual substances. The screening process is currently in progress and includes a collection of substance characteristics that will be used for subsequent selection, such as toxicity or persistence in the environment. Key figures and information were collected concerning the nature, use and vulnerability of surface water in Europe that provides 70% of total water abstraction (drinking water, industry and agriculture) in Europe. The main pollutant families of interest for the screening process were the following: pesticides used in agriculture (e.g. glyphosate or isoproturon), pollutants coming from the spreading of animal waste on land (e.g. veterinary pharmaceuticals or hormones), pollutants coming from the spreading of sludge from wastewater treatment plants (e.g. heavy metals or hormones), pollutants from natural areas (e.g. flame retardants in forests), and pollutants from transportation networks (e.g. heavy metals from vehicles). Consequently in a rural or semi-rural area, the land use in the watershed plays a key role in the selection and assessment of priority pollutants coming from diffuse sources and entering surface waters. The work is still in progress concerning the review of pollutant families, and will lead to the final screening at substance level, providing a list of key contaminants for the other work packages within the Aquisafe project. Eventually, corresponding data for the same issues in the United States will be added and provide a comparison between the two continents.
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