A parsimonious approach to predict regions affected by sewer-borne contaminants in urban aquifers

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung



Leaky urban drainage networks (UDNs) exfiltrating wastewater can contaminate aquifers. Detailed knowledge on spatiotemporal distributions of water-dissolved, sewer-borne contaminants in groundwater is essential to protect urban aquifers and to optimize monitoring systems. We evaluated the effect of UDN layouts on the spreading of sewer-borne contaminants in groundwater using a parsimonious approach. Due to the UDN’s long-term leakage behavior and the existence of non-degradable sewer-borne contaminants (equivalent to a conservative and constant contaminant source), we employed a concept of horizontal line sources to mimic the UDN layout. This does not require the consideration of bio-degradation processes or temporal delay and effectively bypasses the vadose zone, thus reducing computational requirements associated with a full simulation of leakages. We used a set of synthetic leakage scenarios which were generated using fractals and are based on a real-world UDN layout. We investigated the effects of typical leakage rates, varying groundwater flow directions, and UDN’s layouts on the shape of the contaminant plume, disregarding the resulted concentration. Leakage rates showed minimal effects on the total covered plume area, whereas 89% of the variance of the plume’s geometry is explained by both the UDN’s layout (e.g., length and level of complexity) and groundwater flow direction. We demonstrated the potential of applying this approach to identify possible locations of groundwater observation wells using a real UDN layout. This straightforward and parsimonious method can serve as an initial step to strategically identify optimal monitoring systems locations within urban aquifers, and to improve sewer asset management at city scale.


FachzeitschriftEnvironmental monitoring and assessment
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Dez. 2023

Externe IDs

PubMed 37993640
ORCID /0000-0001-7097-7595/work/150884869



  • Groundwater monitoring, Risk area identification, Sewer leakage, Sewer network, Transport simulation