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Water Res. 2003 Mar;37(5):1143-53.

Ground water pollution by roof runoff infiltration evidenced with multi-tracer experiments.

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  • 1Swiss Federal Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, EAWAG, Uberlandstr. 133, CH-8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.


The infiltration of urban roof runoff into well permeable subsurface material may have adverse effects on the ground water quality and endanger drinking water resources. Precipitation water from three different roofs of an industrial complex was channelled to a pit and infiltrated into a perialpine glaciofluvial gravel-and-sand aquifer. A shaft was constructed at the bottom of the pit and equipped with an array of TDR probes, lysimeters and suction cups that allowed measuring and sampling soil water at different depths. A fast infiltration flow was observed during natural rainfall events and during artificial infiltration experiments. For a better understanding of the behaviour of contaminants, experiments were conducted with cocktails of compounds of different reactivity (ammonium, strontium, atratone) and of non-reactive tracers (uranine, bromide, naphthionate), which represent different classes of pollutants. The experiment identified cation exchange reactions influencing the composition of the infiltrating water. These processes occurred under preferential flow conditions in macropores of the material. Measuring concentration changes under the controlled inflow of tracer experiments, the pollution potential was found to be high. Non-reactive tracers exhibited fast breakthrough and little sorption.

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