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Reducing groundwater contamination

Because surface water and groundwater are often closely interconnected, runoff can contaminate both. An approach of protection is necessary. For example, introducing regulations specifying which pesticides can be used in a well-head area, or specifying how to apply pesticides; prohibiting landfill or gasoline stations over groundwater that feeds into well-heads; prohibiting large confined animal operations near vulnerable groundwater or prohibiting farmers from grazing livestock there. If the groundwater is already contaminated a barrier can sometimes be inserted into the ground to prevent further immigration of the pollutant, or chemical or biological reactions can be induced to neutralize or immobilize the contaminant.

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Once polluted, groundwater is extremely costly to clean up. It is often not feasible with today’s technology, although pump-and-treat is commonly used with the goal of restoring the water drinking quality: water is pumped to the surface, treated to remove pollutants and then returned to its source. Methods of treating contaminated water include reverse-osmosis, ozonation, coagulation-precipitation, aerobic biological treatment and activated carbon. Sometimes groundwater is treated in situ, that is, it is not removed from the aquifer: for example, installing tons of iron filling mixed with sand in the path of contaminated groundwater. Some organic pollutants, in fact, react with the iron as the water flows through this permeable barrier and decompose into begin products. Another technique being explored is to find anaerobic microorganisms to degrade the contaminants in situ [10].

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For more information check the following pages: groundwater contamination, quality, source of groundwater pollution, groundwater contaminants (seawater intrusions, nitrates, arsenic and iron in groundwater).

Click here for definitions concerning groundwater, or to learn more about its properties, its origin and quantities, its sources in Europe.



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