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Sci Total Environ. 2013 Sep 1;461-462:663-71. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.05.046. Epub 2013 Jun 12.

Contribution of the aquitard to the regional groundwater hydrochemistry of the underlying confined aquifer in the Pearl River Delta, China.

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  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, PR China.


Aquitards are capable of generating and preserving large amounts of chemicals. The release of the chemicals from the aquitards poses a potential contamination risk to groundwater that may be used as a drinking water source. This work aimed to identify the contribution of hydrogeochemical processes in the aquitards to groundwater hydrochemistry in the underlying confined basal aquifer by studying the coastal Quaternary aquifer-aquitard system of the Pearl River Delta, China. The system was submerged by paleo-seawater in the early Holocene and mainly receives infiltration of precipitation at present, as indicated by investigations on stable isotopes (δ(2)H, δ(18)O), water chemistry (SO4(2-) and Cl(-)) and salinity. Significant correlations between total dissolved solids in the basal aquifer and the thickness of the overlying aquitard further suggested the contribution of the aquitard to the groundwater hydrochemistry in the aquifer. Significant correlations between the chloride concentrations in aquitard porewater and that in groundwater in the aquifer, and between the thickness of the aquitard and the chloride concentrations in groundwater indicated the strong influence of the aquitard on the chloride in the aquifer. This is probably because the low-permeability aquitard is capable of preserving the paleo-seawater in the aquifer and releasing the salinity from the aquitard down to the aquifer via downward flow or diffusion. Isotopic and geochemical studies revealed that the aquitard is also responsible for generating and preserving large amounts of naturally occurring ammonium. Analysis between the concentrations of ammonium in groundwater in the basal aquifer and the total available ammonium in aquitard sediments suggested that the former is significantly controlled by the latter.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Aquifer–aquitard system; Groundwater; Hydrochemistry; Hydrogeochemical processes; The Pearl River Delta

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