Assessing risk to groundwater quality using an integrated risk framework

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Authors: Simpson, MWM; Allen, DM; Journeay, MM
Year: 2014
Journal: Environ. Earth Sci. 71: 4939-4956   Article Link (DOI)
Title: Assessing risk to groundwater quality using an integrated risk framework
Abstract: Source-water protection strategies are ideally focused where the greatest amount of harm reduction can occur. This process of risk management requires an assessment of the spatial variability of risk to water. The assessment methodology presented herein combines aquifer susceptibility with a hazard threat inventory and an analysis of the consequence of contamination to assess the risk to water quality. Aquifer susceptibility combines the intrinsic susceptibility of the physical system with anthropogenic features that locally increase susceptibility. Hazard threats are assessed based on the properties of the chemicals (toxicity and environmental fate), the potential magnitude (extent and quantity of release) and the likelihood of release. The consequence is herein considered as the financial costs of the loss of the resource, including the replacement of a water source and the economic loss where water intensive businesses are lost. A second scenario is included that analyses health issues related to pathogen sources as well as the financial impact to the community where people fall ill and present a financial burden to the public health care system. The risk assessment methodology is applied to the Township of Langley, in southwestern British Columbia, Canada. The results outline the most vulnerable areas as those where susceptible aquifers coexist with potential chemical and biological threats. The risk is greatest where these vulnerable areas coincide with those with the greatest potential for financial loss: within the capture zones of major municipal production wells and where private wells serve agricultural operations with high annual farm sales.
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