A riverbank filtration (RBF) system was tested along the Kali River in rural part of the state of Karnataka in India. The polluted river and water from open wells served the local population as their principal irrigation water resource and some used it for drinking. Four RBF wells (up to 25 m deep) were installed. The mean hydraulic conductivity of the well field is 6.3 × 10-3 cm/s and, based on Darcys law, the water travel time from the river to the principal RBF well (MW3) is 45.2 days. A mixing model based on dissolved silica concentrations indicated that, depending on the distance from the river and closeness to irrigated rice fields, approximately 27 to 73% of the well water originated from groundwater. Stable isotopic data indicates that a fraction of the water was drawn in from the nearby rice fields that were irrigated with river water. Relative to preexisting drinking water sources (Kali River and an open well), RBF well water showed lower concentration of dissolved metals (60.1% zinc, 27.8% cadmium, 83.9% lead, 75.5% copper, 100% chromium). This study demonstrates that RBF technology can produce high-quality water from low-quality surface water sources in a rural, tropical setting typical for many emerging economies. Further, in parts of the world where flood irrigation is common, RBF well water may draw in infiltrated irrigation water, which possibly alters its geochemical composition. A combination of more than one mixing model, silica together with stable isotopes, was shown to be useful explaining the origin of the RBF water at this study site.
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