The impact of variably saturated conditions on hydrogeochemical changes during artificial recharge of groundwater

Janek Greskowiak, Henning Prommer, Gudrun Massmann, Colin D. Johnston, Gunnar Nützmann, Asaf Pekdeger

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95 Citations (Scopus)


Artificial recharge of groundwater is often used to either purify partially treated wastewater or to enhance the quality of surface water by percolation through a variably saturated zone. In many cases, the most substantial purification process within the infiltration water is the redox-dependent biodegradation of organic substances. The present study was aimed at understanding the spatial and temporal distribution of the redox reactions that develop below an artificial recharge pond near Lake Tegel, Germany. At this site, like at many artificial recharge sites, the hydraulic regime immediately below the pond is characterised by cyclic changes between saturated and unsaturated conditions. These changes, which occur during each operational cycle, result from the repeated formation of a clogging layer at the pond bottom. Regular hydrogeochemical analyses of groundwater and seepage water in combination with continuous hydraulic measurements indicate that NO3 - and Mn-reducing conditions dominate beneath the pond as long as water-saturated conditions prevail. Manganese-, Fe- and SO42 - reducing conditions are confined to a narrow zone directly below the clogging layer and in zones of lower hydraulic conductivity. The formation of the clogging layer leads to a steady decrease of the infiltration rate, which ultimatively causes a shift to unsaturated conditions below the clogging layer. Atmospheric O2 then starts to penetrate from the pond fringes into this region, leading to: (i) the re-oxidation of the previously formed sulphide minerals and (ii) the enhanced mineralisation of sedimentary particulate organic C. The mineralisation of sedimentary particulate organic C leads to an increased H2CO 3 production and subsequent dissolution of calcite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1409-1426
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


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