The Amazon Basin is one of the largest but also less well understood hydrological regions on Earth (UNESCO, 2007). The population is around 20 million, including 300,000 indigenous people, with 2/3 living in villages and towns. Many depend on groundwater as a source of safe drinking water (UNEP, 2004). However, coarse first-generation global risk maps predict a high probability of groundwater arsenic contamination caused by naturally reducing aquifer conditions (Figure 1, Amini et al., 2008). Arsenic is highly toxic, causing ailments ranging from skin lesions and cardiovascular disease to different types of cancer (Kapaj et al., 2006). At present, there is no published data to confirm or reject these predictions of arsenic contamination.
The main objective of our seed project is to establish a Swiss-Brazilian research partnership with the aim of investigating the (arsenic and other) geogenic contamination of groundwater in the Amazon Basin.
In particular we are seeking funding for the following activities: (i) Set-up collaboration to initiate a long-term research project. An initial workshop with research partners, water authorities and geologists is planned in Manaus, Brazil. (ii) Calibrate water sampling procedures and chemical analysis methods between the partners. (iii) Conduct a pilot groundwater survey in selected areas of the Brazilian Amazon Basin to get a first overview of the extent of geogenic contamination. This pilot exploratory study will cover two distinguished depositional environments. (iv) Seek geospatial data that is up to date and with highest resolution related to geology, soil characteristics, topography and climate of the Brazilian Amazon region to determine proxies for geochemical conditions to identify aquifers that are highly likely to be affected by geogenic contamination. (v) Develop a full joint project proposal to be submitted to larger Swiss and Brazilian funding agencies.
The expected results are (a) the identification of hotspots of geogenic contamination in drinking water resources, (b) preliminary understanding of the processes specific to the hydrogeochemical context of the Amazon Basin, that lead to the release of contaminants under reducing conditions in groundwater and (c) an established partnership to prepare sound project proposals for a 3-4 year research project in which we will investigate the entire Amazon Basin in-depth.
The ultimate goal is to develop geospatial risk models together with Brazilian and Peruvian partners that pinpoint safe and unsafe groundwater resources throughout the Amazon Basin. The significance of this approach lies in the fact that predictions can be made for regions with no or little groundwater quality data.
Dr. Michael Berg
Prof. Dr. Ingo Daniel Wahnfried