Finding sustainable water supplies
In Bangladesh, naturally occurring high levels of arsenic found in groundwater have undermined the decade long success of supplying 97% of its population with safe drinking water. As a consequence, the safe water coverage has dropped drastically and an estimated 30-70 million people are at risk. The harmful effects of arsenic poisoning surface decades after the actual poisoning occurs. High arsenic levels result in, among other things, pigmentation changes, cancer, tumours, liver damage and diabetes.
There is an urgent need to find practical solutions to obtain safe and clean drinking water. In some parts of Bangladesh, local drillers are now targeting presumed safe groundwater on the basis of the local colour of the sediments and its texture. It seems that red sediments are low in arsenic and may function as a natural arsenic filter due to high contents of iron-oxyhydroxides (rust) that can adsorb mobilised arsenic. It has been scientifically verified as a viable solution and the objective of the research project is to validate if this method is sustainable in the long run. In time, there could be a risk that the clean water from the red sediments will be contaminated with arsenic if water from the above layers flows downwards.
Predictive groundwater simulations
The study area, located 60 km SE of Dhaka, is one of the most arsenic affected districts in the world. By using data from ongoing field and laboratory research Ramboll will run predictive groundwater simulations in order to ascertain whether or not the targeted groundwater bearing sediments are sustainable. By cooperating with Bangladeshi organisations the outcome can be implemented in Water Safety Plans by local authorities.
The project runs simultaneously and in close collaboration with a MISTRA funded project managed by KTH, Stockholm, Dhaka University and NGO Forum for Drinking Water and Sanitation, Bangladesh.