Journal article

Identification of groundwater quality trends in a chalk aquifer threatened by intensive agriculture in Belgium

The European Union (EU) has adopted directives requiring that Member States take measures to reach a “good” chemical status of water resources by the year 2015 (Water Framework Directive: WFD). In order to achieve the environmental objectives for groundwater, the identification and reversal of significant upward trends in pollutant concentrations are required. A very detailed dataset available for the Hesbaye chalk aquifer in Belgium is used to evaluate tools and to propose efficient methodologies for identifying and quantifying nitrate trends in groundwater. Results indicate that the parametric linear regression and the non-parametric Mann-Kendall tests are robust; however, the latter test seems more adequate as it does not require verification of the normality of the dataset and it provides calculated nitrate trends very comparable to those obtained using linear regression. From a hydrogeological point of view, results highlight a general upward trend in the whole groundwater basin. The extrapolation of the trend analysis results indicates that measures have to be taken urgently in order to avoid further major degradation of groundwater quality within the next 10–70 years. However, a good groundwater quality status cannot be expected in the Hesbaye aquifer for the 2015 EU WFD deadline.


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