<p>Positive and negative impacts of five Austrian gravel pit lakes on groundwater quality </p>

Positive and negative impacts of five Austrian gravel pit lakes on groundwater quality 

Christian Muellegger, Andreas Weilhartner, Tom J. Battin, Thilo Hofmann

Science of The Total Environment http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.10.097


Groundwater-fed gravel pit lakes (GPLs) affect the biological, organic, and inorganic parameters of inflowing groundwater through combined effects of bank filtration at the inflow, reactions within the lake, and bank filtration at the outflow. GPLs result from wet dredging for sand and gravel and may conflict with groundwater protection programs by removing the protective soil cover and exposing groundwater to the atmosphere.

We have investigated the impact on groundwater of five GPLs with different sizes, ages, and mean residence times, and all having low post-excavation anthropogenic usage. The results revealed highly active biological systems within the lake water, in which primary producers significantly reduced inflowing nitrate concentrations. Decalcification also occurred in lake water, reducing water hardness, which could be beneficial for waterworks in hard groundwater areas. Downgradient groundwater nitrate and calcium concentrations were found to be stable, with only minor seasonal variations. Biological degradation of organic material and organic micropollutants was also observed in the GPLs. For young GPLs adequate sediment deposits may not yet have formed and degradation processes at the outflow may consequently not yet be well established. However, our results showed that within 5 years from the cessation of excavation a protective sediment layer is established that is sufficient to prevent the export of dissolved organic carbon to downgradient groundwater.

GPLs can improve groundwater quality in anthropogenically (e.g., pesticides and nitrate) or geologically (e.g., hardness) challenging situations. However, post-excavation usage of GPLs is often dominated by human activities such as recreational activities, water sports, or fish farming. These activities will affect lake and groundwater quality and the risks involved are difficult to predict and monitor and can lead to overall negative impacts on groundwater quality.