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The Jinghuiqu irrigation district is located in the semi-arid regions of northwestern China, where groundwater is the most important natural source for local industry, agriculture and residents. The present work was conducted in the Jinghuiqu irrigation district to characterize the groundwater aquifer, which has undergone long-term flood irrigation for over 2000 years. Isotopic and hydrochemical analyses, along with geological and hydrogeological tools, were used to determine the chemical properties and evolutionary processes of the groundwater aquifer. Results showed that the groundwater chemistry had changed significantly from 1990 to 2009. Water with concentrations of CaMgSO4 had decreased significantly, from 60% to 28% of the total water samples, during the period, while water with concentrations of NaSO4 and NaCl increased significantly, from 28% to 72%. The salinity of the groundwater increased rapidly and the affected area had expanded to most of the irrigation district. Stable isotope studies showed that most of the groundwater concentrations were derived from sulfate mineral dissolution. The minerals saturation indices (SI), ion ratios and oxygen isotope values of the groundwater indicated that the shallow groundwater had mainly experienced mineral dissolution, cation exchange, and mixing of the irrigated surface waters and groundwater. The groundwater quality had continuously evolved toward salinization as concentrations of SO4(2-) and Na+ grew to dominate it. Water quality risk analyses showed that most of the saline groundwater is not suitable for domestic and irrigation uses, especially in the middle and eastern parts of the irrigation district. These findings indicate that the irrigation district should strengthen the groundwater resources management.


Xiuhua Liu, Lin Li, Anyan Hu. Hydrochemical characterization of a groundwater aquifer and its water quality in relation to irrigation in the Jinghuiqu irrigation district of China. Water environment research : a research publication of the Water Environment Federation. 2013 Mar;85(3):245-58

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PMID: 23581240

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