Articles | Volume 19, issue 2
Research article
24 Feb 2015
Research article |  | 24 Feb 2015

Quantification of anthropogenic impact on groundwater-dependent terrestrial ecosystem using geochemical and isotope tools combined with 3-D flow and transport modelling

A. J. Zurek, S. Witczak, M. Dulinski, P. Wachniew, K. Rozanski, J. Kania, A. Postawa, J. Karczewski, and W. J. Moscicki

Abstract. Groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs) have important functions in all climatic zones as they contribute to biological and landscape diversity and provide important economic and social services. Steadily growing anthropogenic pressure on groundwater resources creates a conflict situation between nature and man which are competing for clean and safe sources of water. Such conflicts are particularly noticeable in GDEs located in densely populated regions. A dedicated study was launched in 2010 with the main aim to better understand the functioning of a groundwater-dependent terrestrial ecosystem (GDTE) located in southern Poland. The GDTE consists of a valuable forest stand (Niepolomice Forest) and associated wetland (Wielkie Błoto fen). It relies mostly on groundwater from the shallow Quaternary aquifer and possibly from the deeper Neogene (Bogucice Sands) aquifer. In July 2009 a cluster of new pumping wells abstracting water from the Neogene aquifer was set up 1 km to the northern border of the fen. A conceptual model of the Wielkie Błoto fen area for the natural, pre-exploitation state and for the envisaged future status resulting from intense abstraction of groundwater through the new well field was developed. The main aim of the reported study was to probe the validity of the conceptual model and to quantify the expected anthropogenic impact on the studied GDTE. A wide range of research tools was used. The results obtained through combined geologic, geophysical, geochemical, hydrometric and isotope investigations provide strong evidence for the existence of upward seepage of groundwater from the deeper Neogene aquifer to the shallow Quaternary aquifer supporting the studied GDTE. Simulations of the groundwater flow field in the study area with the aid of a 3-D flow and transport model developed for Bogucice Sands (Neogene) aquifer and calibrated using environmental tracer data and observations of hydraulic head in three different locations on the study area, allowed us to quantify the transient response of the aquifer to operation of the newly established Wola Batorska well field. The model runs reveal the presence of upward groundwater seepage to the shallow Quaternary aquifer of the order of 440 m3 d−1. By the end of the simulation period (2029), with continuous operation of the Wola Batorska well field at maximum permissible capacity (ca. 10 000 m3 d−1), the direction of groundwater seepage will change sign (total change of the order of 900 m3 d−1). The water table drawdown in the study area will reach ca. 30 cm. This may have significant adverse effects on functioning of the studied GDTE.