Oct 15, 2020

New Areas in India at Risk of Drinking Water Arsenic Exposure

A new model confirms a high probability of finding hazardous high arsenic well waters in northern India in the river basins of the Ganges and Brahmaputra. 

india well water

Arsenic in drinking water obtained from wells is causing adverse health outcomes in the Indian subcontinent.

According to Phys.org, an international team comprised of researchers based in Manchester, United Kingdom, Patna, India and Zurich, Switzerland have created a country-specific, country-wide model for well water arsenic in India. The research has recently been published in the International Journal for Environmental Research and Public Health.

Before this, to date, there had not been published a detailed model focused solely on India, reported Phys.org.

The model confirms that there is a high probability of finding hazardous high arsenic well waters in northern India, specifically in the river basins of the Ganges and Brahmaputra. The model also found an elevated probability of high arsenic well waters in other areas, where arsenic hazard was previously generally not considered a major concern.

According to the researchers, the model suggests that these areas require follow up sampling of well water and analysis for arsenic, reported Phys.org. These areas include parts of south-west and central India and are mostly underlain by sediments and sedimentary rocks. 

There are limitations to this kind of modeling approach, however. The model is based largely on satellite-derived data and is therefore less reliable for deeper wells. The model also does not consider variations of well water arsenic with time and the arsenic content of well waters is known to change over short distances, reported Phys,org.

The lead author of the study was Dr. Joel Podgorski, a senior scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). According to him, the study demonstrates how the increasing availability of data can be used to better understand the scope of public health crises.

The collaboration was built on a joint India-UK Water Quality project FAR-GANGA. Co-authors Professor David Polya, a researcher at The University of Manchester, and Biswajit Charkavorty, a senior scientist at the National Institute of Hydrology, led the project.

"The model outputs are a good example of the benefits of international collaboration,” said Polya. “The work would have been much more difficult to achieve without the joint India-UK Water Quality program project, FAR-GANGA."

"The outcome of this open-access joint Indo-UK study will help create greater awareness of hazardous arsenic distribution in wells amongst the population," added Chakravorty.

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