This paper investigates the impacts of urban growth on groundwater quality and quantity in the Zahedan aquifer, which is the sole source of water supply for the city of Zahedan, Iran. The investigation is based on the collection of available historical data, supplemented by field and laboratory investigations. Groundwater levels in 40 wells were measured in December 2000. In addition, 102 water samples were taken in two periods during November and December 2000. Of these, 43 samples were analyzed for major ions, 32 samples were analyzed for nitrogen and phosphorus and the remainder for bacteriological contamination. The water level data show that there has been a general decline since 1977 due to over-abstraction. The magnitude of this decline has reached about 20 m in some places. However, in one area over the same period, a rise of about 3 m has been observed. This occurs as a result of the local hydrogeological conditions of shallow bedrock and relatively low permeability materials down stream of this area that limits the flow of groundwater towards the northeastern part of the aquifer. The general fall in groundwater levels has been accompanied by a change in the direction of the groundwater flow and an overall reduction of the areal extent of the saturated region of the aquifer. The city now has a serious problem such that even if the abstracted groundwater is rationed, water is not available for long periods because the demand far exceeds the supply. The heavy impact of urbanization on the groundwater quality is shown through the observed high nitrate (up to 295 mg/l as nitrate) and high phosphorus values (about 0.1 mg/l as P). Significant changes in the chloride concentration are also observed in two areas: increasing from 100 mg/l to 1,600 mg/l and from 2,000 mg/l to 4,000 mg/l, respectively. Furthermore, the bacteriological investigations show that 33 percent of the 27 collected groundwater samples are positive for total coliform and 11 percent of the samples contained fecal coliforms indicating that local sources are strongly influencing the observed chemical data. Greater depths to groundwater reduce the observation of coliform contamination. In general, the unplanned urban development in Zahedan has significantly degraded the region's water resources and significant actions such as upgrading the sewage waste disposal system, locating other sources of water supply, and strict groundwater management will all be needed to resolve the problems that have arisen.
Additional publication details
The effects of urbanization on groundwater quantity and quality in the Zahedan aquifer, southeast Iran