Arsenic mobilization in an alluvial aquifer of the Terai region, Nepal

Document Type


Publication details

Diwakar, J, Johnston, SG, Burton, ED & Das Shrestha, S in press, 'Arsenic mobilization in an alluvial aquifer of the Terai region, Nepal', Journal of Hydrology.

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Study Region

A shallow (<50 m) alluvial aquifer in the Terai region of Nepal.

Study Focus

We examine the hydrogeochemical characteristics of a shallow alluvial aquifer system in the Terai region (Nawalparasi district) to identify possible mechanisms and controls on geogenic As mobilization in groundwater. Groundwater and river water samples from a topo-gradient flow-path and floodplain of a minor river draining the Siwalik forehills were analyzed for physico-chemical parameters.

New Hydrological Insights for the Region

The aquifer is characterized by Ca-HCO3 type water and is multi-contaminated, with the WHO guideline values exceeded for As, Mn and F in 80%, 70% and 40% of cases respectively. The middle portion of the floodplain was heavily contaminated with As, predominantly as As(III). The river water displayed some evidence of reductive processes in the hyporheic zone contributing As, Fe and Mn to baseflow and also had elevated fluoride. The generally sub-oxic conditions, dominance of As(III) and Fe2+ species and positive correlation between As and both NH3 and UV-absorbance at 254 nm suggests that oxidation of organic matter coupled with microbial mediated reductive processes are important for mobilizing As in the aquifer. The apparent decoupling between As(III)(aq) and Fe2+(aq) may be explained by precipitation of siderite, but further work is required to resolve this unambiguously. Along with reductive processes, other geochemical mechanisms including silicate weathering and precipitation/dissolution of carbonate minerals, control the solute and major ion composition of groundwater.