Abstract

Fast decline of groundwater levels in Pakistan requires the use of artificial recharging techniques to minimize the adverse effect of over pumping. A study was conducted in the Toba Tek Singh district, Punjab, Pakistan, to investigate aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) technology to recharge groundwater. The facility was developed by drilling a pumping/injection well and constructing the water storage tank along with developing the recharge mechanism. Three treatments of 51, 71, and 99 m3 of treated canal water were injected into the aquifer under gravity and were retained for 7 days. Another three treatments of 100 m3 each were injected for retention times of 14, 28, and 56 days. The recovery efficiency (RE) was found to be 83, 91, and 98% for injected volumes of 51, 71, and 99 m3, respectively, for retention time of 7 days. Similarly, the RE for an injected volume of 100 m3 was found to be 73, 62, and 52% for retention times of 14, 28, and 56 days, respectively. These results indicated that RE improved with increase in injected volume and decreased with increase in retention time; however, the technology was found to have potential for storing and recovering of water injected into the aquifer.

INTRODUCTION

Groundwater in Pakistan has been recognized as a dependable source of supplemental irrigation because of its easy and flexible access to farmers (Qureshi et al. 2010; Qazi et al. 2014). Farmers can irrigate their crops using groundwater according to their needs and requirements. About 60% of the crop water requirements of the country are met with canal water supplies, and the remaining 40% are partially fulfilled with groundwater and rainfall (Bakhsh et al. 2004). The contribution of groundwater, however, in meeting crop water requirements varies from year to year depending on the climatic conditions and flows in the rivers. The importance of groundwater becomes especially critical during dry years and periods of low canal water supplies. This can also be seen from the growth rate of tubewells in Pakistan, which has increased above 900,000 (ASP 2013). It has been estimated that about 61 billion cubic meters of groundwater have been pumped annually (PES 2010). This huge abstraction of groundwater has resulted in lowering the depth of groundwater level in the country (Khattak et al. 2014) and, in some cases, even mining the aquifer where the discharge rate has exceeded the recharge rates. This practice has also resulted in deteriorating groundwater quality and inducing secondary salinization problems in the irrigated agriculture of Pakistan. According to an estimate, more than 70% of tubewells are pumping brackish groundwater and are decreasing the productivity potential of the irrigated agricultural lands (Qureshi et al. 2010).

These indicators present an alarming situation because of the diminishing and deteriorating groundwater resources. Realizing the gravity of the situation, it has become imperative that groundwater resources in the country are taken care of in terms of their recharge so that falling water tables and deteriorating groundwater quality can be controlled, which can also minimize the secondary salinization problems (Khattak et al. 2014). Therefore, it is of paramount importance that the aquifers are artificially recharged with surplus water supplies during rainy seasons or flood periods, which can be pumped later and used during periods of peak water demand. Various techniques have been used for artificial recharging of groundwater. The aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) technique is a cost-effective alternative of artificial groundwater recharge for storing surplus good quality water in aquifers and pumping the same water during periods of high crop water requirements (Pyne 1995; Goyal et al. 2008; Khan et al. 2008; Lopez et al. 2014). This technique also provides an option to farmers such as a water bank deposit, especially where groundwater quality is brackish. This technique can serve as a tool to recharge aquifers and control falling water tables in order to promote sustainable exploitation of groundwater and also to minimize salinity buildup in the root zone. Different researchers have also reported the efficiency and benefits of artificial recharge of groundwater (Hao et al. 2014; Ginkel 2015).

Prior to installation of an ASR well, knowledge of aquifer parameters such as native groundwater quality, porosity, thickness, subsurface formation, transmissivity, hydraulic conductivity, and regional hydraulic gradient are required, which affect the movement and mixing of injected water in the aquifers. For successful application of ASR techniques, it is of utmost importance to understand the effect of injected volume, recharge rate, and retention time on the recovered water quality. Similarly, recovery efficiency (RE) can also be related to ASR operations and represents the volume of water of usable quality that can be recovered relative to the volume of water injected (Lowry & Anderson 2006; Goyal et al. 2008). Keeping this in view, the present study was designed to focus on investigating the aquifer storage and recovery concept in the saline groundwater zone of the district of Toba Tek Singh, Punjab, Pakistan. The aquifer was investigated, recharged, monitored, and evaluated for groundwater qualities of the injected and pumped water to determine RE and aquifer suitability.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

The study area was selected at a farmer's field located in Chak No. 405/JB, Toba Tek Singh, Punjab, Pakistan, having a latitude of 30° 50′N and longitude of 72° 29′E (Figure 1). The area is dominated by the Jhang Branch canal. The climate of the area touches two extremes. The maximum temperature goes up to 50°C in summer. In winter, it may fall below the freezing point. The summer season starts from April and continues until October. May, June, and July are the hottest months. The winter season, on the other hand, starts from November and continues until March. December, January, and February are relatively cold months. The site is at an elevation of 184 m amsl.

Figure 1

Location of the farmer's field in Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab province of Pakistan.

Figure 1

Location of the farmer's field in Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab province of Pakistan.

Hydrogeological conditions

The study area lies in the lower part of the Rachna Doab. The Rachna Doab as a whole is an inter-fluvial area between the rivers Ravi and Chenab, lying between a longitude of 71° 48′ to 75° 20′E and latitude of 30° 31′ to 32° 51′N. The Rachna Doab covers a gross area of about 2.97 million hectares. The area of the Doab falls in the rice-wheat and wheat-sugarcane agro-ecological zones of Punjab province. The average annual rainfall is estimated at 400 mm. It covers a vast canal network up to distributaries and minors. This vast canal network in the Rachna Doab is the main source of groundwater recharge. The groundwater quality is generally marginally fit to unfit for irrigation purposes as it moves towards the central and southern parts of the Doab.

The aquifers of the Rachna Doab were formed as a result of sediment deposition on land with a flat topography. The medium to moderately coarse soil texture dominates the Doab. The sediments were carried by river waters from the vast alluvial basin of the river that consisted of materials washed down from the Himalayan Mountains. In general, like other aquifers in Punjab, the aquifers of the Rachna Doab are unconfined; however, due to the study area having significant clay horizons at 24 m below the ground surface, confined conditions were encountered. The hydraulic gradient of 0.011 m/m was recorded from the pumping/injection well (P/IW) to observation well (OW) W129 (Figure 2), showing the direction of flow in the west. The average hydraulic conductivity, transmissivity, and effective porosity of 96 m/day, 1,156 m2/day, and 35%, respectively were determined in a similar study by Farid & Bakhsh (2015). The amount of salts in the groundwater of the area varies considerably depth-wise, and salinity is probably the major problem with the groundwater of Toba Tek Singh. The ASR technology was proposed for an emergency supply of irrigation water in the saline groundwater areas. A drilling operation of the P/IW was performed up to 36 m depth below the ground surface to develop the ASR system.

Figure 2

Layout of P/IW and observation.

Figure 2

Layout of P/IW and observation.

Three OWs in the west and three in the south-east directions were also drilled up to 16, 23, and 29 m depth (Figures 2 and 3) to monitor and record groundwater data. Soil samples were collected from the ground surface to a drilling depth with an interval of 1.5 to 3.3 m depending on the variability of the subsurface strata. Groundwater samples were also collected during the drilling operation, from the water table to the drilling depth, with an interval of 1.5 m. About 100 soil and groundwater samples were collected. The soil textural and water quality analyses were carried out in the laboratory. The soil and groundwater data showed that the fresh groundwater quality zone was present at a depth from 8 to 15.6 m below the ground surface, having electrical conductivity (ECw) values <1.5 dS/m, and the groundwater quality deteriorated as it moved downwards from the 15.6 m depth. A depth of 1.6 m below the ground surface indicated the surficial material. At 1.7 to 5 m depth, a mixture of sand and clay was found. Coarse sand mixed with gravel was present from 5.1 to 18 m below the ground surface. Similarly, fine sand and very fine sand with a 1.2 m alternate layer of clay was present from 18.1 to 36 m depth (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Depth of production and OWs.

Figure 3

Depth of production and OWs.

ASR components

The components of ASR technology, such as a water treatment and storage tank, P/IW, recharge pipe, flow meter, sluice gate valve, etc. were installed (Figure 4). A water treatment and storage tank of 7.0, 4.5, and 3.7 m in length, width, and depth, respectively, was constructed for sediment settlement, filtration, and storage of the canal water. The water treatment and storage tank consisted of three sections: (1) an inlet section with screens for receiving canal water and removing debris material; (2) a settling section for allowing sediments to settle; and (3) a filtration section for removing finer sediments in order to avoid strainer clogging. Canal water was treated before its injection to the well under gravity by passing it through the treatment and storage tank, with the inlet, settling, and filtration sections. From these, water samples of 100 mL volume were collected. First, samples were taken from the watercourse from where canal water was conveyed through Nakka, and then water samples were collected from the inlet, settling, and filtration sections. About 24 water samples were collected from each section with an interval of 1 hour. The water samples were analyzed in the laboratory using the standard methods to determine ECw, pH, chloride (Cl), bicarbonate (HCO3), residual sodium carbonate (RSC), sodium adsorption ratio (SAR), and suspended sediments. The values of the water quality parameters were within permissible limits for irrigation purposes (Table 1). However, the removal of sediments was necessary to avoid clogging of the well strainer. The quantity of sediments entrapped in different sections of the treatment and storage tank was measured during the recharge phases. The canal water was carrying sediments at a concentration of 130 ppm (13 kg per 100 m3) and sediments were removed at the rate of 23% in the inlet section, 54% in the settling section, and 15% in the filtration section of the storage tank. About a total of 92% of the sediments was removed from the canal water while it passed through the water treatment tank prior to its injection into the well.

Table 1

Water quality parameters and suspended sediments of canal water

VariableUnitsPermissible rangeMeanMinimumMaximumC.V.
EC dS/m 0–1.25 0.73 0.62 0.87 9.84 
Sediments ppm – 130.00 110.00 143.00 8.07 
Cl meq/L 0–4.5 0.59 0.45 0.70 12.81 
HCO3 meq/L 0–6 2.35 2.00 2.60 8.57 
RSC meq/L 0–2.5 1.06 0.90 1.40 14.88 
SAR meq/L 0–10 1.91 1.70 2.20 6.27 
pH – 6.5–8.4 7.43 7.00 7.80 4.07 
VariableUnitsPermissible rangeMeanMinimumMaximumC.V.
EC dS/m 0–1.25 0.73 0.62 0.87 9.84 
Sediments ppm – 130.00 110.00 143.00 8.07 
Cl meq/L 0–4.5 0.59 0.45 0.70 12.81 
HCO3 meq/L 0–6 2.35 2.00 2.60 8.57 
RSC meq/L 0–2.5 1.06 0.90 1.40 14.88 
SAR meq/L 0–10 1.91 1.70 2.20 6.27 
pH – 6.5–8.4 7.43 7.00 7.80 4.07 
Figure 4

Experimental ASR setup at the study area.

Figure 4

Experimental ASR setup at the study area.

A recharge pipe of PVC material (100 mm diameter) conveyed treated water from the filtration section to the suction pipe (150 mm in diameter) through a sluice valve (100 mm diameter), and a T section was fabricated to connect the recharge pipe to the suction pipe below and adjacent to the foot valve. A centrifugal pump of 100 × 125 mm was installed above the foot valve at a 6 m depth below the ground surface in the dug well, of 2.43 m diameter, which was brick lined. The well is 36 m deep, and the strainer was installed within it, at 12 m from the bottom. The diameter of the strainer is 200 mm. The strainer has a slot size opening of 50 × 3.8 mm. Above the strainer, a blind pipe of 18 m length and 150 mm diameter and a delivery pipe of 100 mm diameter with 6 m vertical and 3 m horizontal lengths were installed. Water metering for the injection period was performed using a flow meter of 100 mm diameter, and flow rate for the recovery/pumping period was recorded using the volumetric method.

Treatments

After development of the ASR setup, the experiment was performed in two phases. During phase I, three treatments of the treated canal water of 51 (T1), 71 (T2), and 99 (T3) m3 were injected into the aquifer under gravity through the suction pipe of the well to recharge the aquifer. The retention times in the aquifer for these treatments were kept as 7 days. During phase II, three treatments of the treated canal water of 100 m3 were injected under gravity into the aquifer for retention times of 14 (T4), 28 (T5), and 56 (T6) days. The injected canal water had an ECw of 0.63 dS/m. Parameters such as volume and quality of injected water, volume and quality of recovered water, flow rate of injected and recovered water, storage/retention time, injection time, recovery time and pumping time were recorded. The RE for different treatments was computed as below:  
formula

A point sampler was designed and developed as part of the research study for collecting water samples at the required depth in the OWs in order to analyze the lateral and vertical extent of the water injected into the aquifer. The length of the sampler was 0.40 m and the diameter 40 mm. The capacity of the sampler was 0.0003 m3. A foot valve was attached at the bottom of the sampler and a hook was welded at the top of the foot valve to hold the sampler. Two wires were attached with the sampler, one to hold the point sampler and the other to stretch the spring of the foot valve for collecting the water samples (Figure 5). The wire was graduated to measure the lowering depth of the sampler. The water samples, at an interval of 90 cm depth from the water table to the bottom of the OWs, were collected in plastic bottles and analyzed in the laboratory for water quality analysis.

Figure 5

Point sampler.

Figure 5

Point sampler.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Phase I

Volume effects on groundwater quality

The average injection rate during all treatments was recorded as 1.02 m3/min, whereas the injection times were found to be 48, 67, and 93 minutes for injected volume of 51 (T1), 71 (T2), and 99 (T3) m3, respectively. The increase in water level (head) ranges from 0.07 to 0.08 m and was recorded in W129 for all the treatments. The water level returned to its pre-injection level after 3 days of storage. The prime target of the ASR system was to recharge the saline deeper confined aquifers. The increase in pressure during the injection did not affect water table elevation (Martin & Dillon 2004). It was observed that the recovered volume increased against an increase in the ECw value for all three treatments. Recovered volumes of 42.5, 64.5, and 97.5 m3 were recorded against 3.0 dS/m of ECw values of recovered water (FAO 1994; Goyal et al. 2008; Bauder et al. 2014) for T1, T2, and T3 treatments, respectively (Table 2). Figure 6 shows the relationship between ECw of recovered water and pumping time. The effects of volume on ECw were apparent as T1 treatment approached an unsuitable limit after about 28 minutes of pumping, whereas T2 and T3 treatments had ECw within permissible limits prior to 44 and 67 minutes of pumping, respectively. The T1 and T2 treatments reached ECw of native groundwater after about 100 minutes of pumping, whereas the T3 treatment attained the steady state values of native groundwater after about 120 minutes of pumping (Figure 6). All the treatments showed a similar trend after 120 minutes of pumping. These relationships also showed the effects of volume of injected water and mixing effects on groundwater quality (Lowry & Anderson 2006; Goyal et al. 2008; Zuurbier et al. 2013).

Table 2

Recovered volume at different EC values for three treatments having a retention time of 7 days

EC (dS/m)Treatments
Treatment (T1) (injected volume = 51 m3)Treatment (T2) (injected volume = 71 m3)Treatment (T3) (injected volume = 99 m3)
Recovered volume (m3)Recovered volume (m3)Recovered volume (m3)
1.5 7.55 19.50 30.07 
2.0 16.48 30.34 45.20 
3.0 42.50 64.53 97.51 
4.0 142.58 142.50 180.10 
EC (dS/m)Treatments
Treatment (T1) (injected volume = 51 m3)Treatment (T2) (injected volume = 71 m3)Treatment (T3) (injected volume = 99 m3)
Recovered volume (m3)Recovered volume (m3)Recovered volume (m3)
1.5 7.55 19.50 30.07 
2.0 16.48 30.34 45.20 
3.0 42.50 64.53 97.51 
4.0 142.58 142.50 180.10 
Figure 6

Relationship between EC and pumping time for different injected volumes.

Figure 6

Relationship between EC and pumping time for different injected volumes.

Volume effect on RE

The RE was found to be 83%, 91%, and 98% for T1, T2, and T3 treatments, respectively (Figure 7). It has been reported that RE is a site-specific phenomenon and its acceptable level has varied among individual water users as well as remaining in the range of 70–100% (Reese 2002; Pyne & President 2003). The increasing trend was observed in RE from T1 towards T3 treatment as a result of an increase in the injected volume. The 8% increase in RE for T2 treatment having an injected volume of 71 m3 and 15% increase for T3 treatment with an injected volume of 99 m3 were recorded when compared with T1 treatment, with an injection volume of 51 m3. It has also been reported that RE improved with an increase in injected volume (Lowry & Anderson 2006; Goyal et al. 2008).

Figure 7

Relationship between RE and injected volume for different treatments.

Figure 7

Relationship between RE and injected volume for different treatments.

Phase II

Retention time effects on groundwater quality

Table 3 shows the volumes of recovered water against ECw values of 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 dS/m for retention times of 14 (T4), 28 (T5), and 56 (T6) days. It was observed that the recovered volume increased from 18.85 to 172.55, 17.40 to 143.55, and 11.60 to 121.80 m3 against increasing values of ECw for treatments of T4, T5, and T6, respectively, and the recovered volume decreased with an increase in retention time (Table 3). The increasing trend in the value of ECw was found for all three treatments as the pumping proceeded (Figure 8). The trend of ECw value up to 3 dS/m for pumping time of 57 minutes was similar for all treatments, but differed for pumping time from 60 to 120 minutes while approaching the ECw values of native groundwater quality. The retention time effects, however, were more visible during pumping time from 60 to 120 minutes where the ECw was within the range of 3 to 4 dS/m (Figure 8). It was observed that the groundwater quality deteriorated with an increase in retention time due to mixing of stored water with ambient groundwater. The increase in retention time of injected water within the storage zone resulted in excessive mixing of stored water with ambient groundwater (Maliva & Missimer 2010).

Table 3

Recovered volume at different EC values for three treatments having an injected volume of 100 m3

EC (dS/m)Treatments
Treatment (T4) retention time = 14 daysTreatment (T5) retention time = 28 daysTreatment (T6) retention time = 56 days
Recovered volume (m3)Recovered volume (m3)Recovered volume (m3)
1.5 18.85 17.40 11.60 
2.0 31.90 27.55 27.55 
3.0 73.95 62.35 52.20 
4.0 172.55 143.55 121.80 
EC (dS/m)Treatments
Treatment (T4) retention time = 14 daysTreatment (T5) retention time = 28 daysTreatment (T6) retention time = 56 days
Recovered volume (m3)Recovered volume (m3)Recovered volume (m3)
1.5 18.85 17.40 11.60 
2.0 31.90 27.55 27.55 
3.0 73.95 62.35 52.20 
4.0 172.55 143.55 121.80 
Figure 8

Relationship between EC and pumping time for different retention times.

Figure 8

Relationship between EC and pumping time for different retention times.

Retention time effect on RE

The RE was found to be 74%, 62%, and 42% for T4, T5, and T6 treatments, respectively (Figure 9). The decreasing trend was observed in RE from T4 towards T6 treatment as a result of an increase in retention time. The decrease of 12% in RE was recorded for T5 treatment having a retention time of 28 days and a 32% decrease for T6 treatment with a retention time of 56 days when compared with T1 treatment with a retention time of 14 days. Goyal et al. (2008) also reported that RE decreased as retention time increased. The decrease in RE with an increase in retention time was due to the higher hydraulic gradient (0.011 m/m) and hydraulic conductivity (96 m/day). The higher hydraulic gradient reduced the time of travel and increased the flow velocity of injected water to move away from the vicinity of the well strainer, because travel time and flow velocity largely depended on the hydraulic gradient. Similarly, the higher hydraulic conductivity values indicated the movement of injected water beyond the captured zone of the ASR well. The low values of effective porosity also caused the decrease in RE with longer retention time. However, effective porosity was a difficult parameter to quantify; it varied over a much smaller range than hydraulic gradient (Lowry & Anderson 2006).

Figure 9

Relationship between RE and retention time for different treatments.

Figure 9

Relationship between RE and retention time for different treatments.

Groundwater quality profile

Figures 1012 show the comparison of retention time effects on groundwater quality for an injected volume of 100 m3 having retention times of 14 (T4), 28 (T5), and 56 (T6) days. The pattern of recovered groundwater quality can be divided into three zones (Figure 10). The first zone ranges from 20 to 26 m depth with ECw of ≤3 dS/m for a retention time of 14 days (T4). The second zone shows a steep slope, i.e., a sharp decline of ECw from 3.7 to 0.7 dS/m after injection, showing the decrease in salinity due to the mixing effect of injected water with the native groundwater. The decrease in salinity at that depth was due to the installation of the well strainer from 24 to 36 m depth. After 14 days of retention time, ECw changed its position from 0.7 to 1.5 dS/m from the bottom of the well (26 to 30 m depth) and 3.7 to 3 dS/m from the upper part of the aquifer (20–25 m depth). The depth from 25 to 27 m of the aquifer showed a steep slope indicating the presence of a permeable layer. The retention time of 28 days (T5) showed slightly different behavior than that of 14 days' (T4) retention time, but the trend was similar (Figure 11). The sixth treatment of 56 days' retention time (T6) showed pronounced deteriorating effects on groundwater quality due to the mixing effects as a result of longer retention time; water movement over longer retention time played an important role in the development of mixing zones between the injected freshwater and ambient saline groundwater (Zuurbier et al. 2013; Ginkel et al. 2016). With the increase in retention time, the groundwater quality profile moved towards native groundwater quality (Figure 12). The groundwater quality profile showed a larger shift in the upper part of the aquifer with ECw of 3 dS/m to 3.5 dS/m compared with the zone having ECw of 3 dS/m for 14 and 28 days of retention time.

Figure 10

Groundwater quality profile for retention time of 14 days.

Figure 10

Groundwater quality profile for retention time of 14 days.

Figure 11

Groundwater quality profile for retention time of 28 days.

Figure 11

Groundwater quality profile for retention time of 28 days.

Figure 12

Groundwater quality profile for retention time of 56 days.

Figure 12

Groundwater quality profile for retention time of 56 days.

Feasibility of ASR technology

Technically, ASR technology has the potential to store water during periods of surplus water supplies such as rainy season or during floods, which can be recovered later to mitigate drought effects (Wilson 2007). A study conducted in Australia has shown three to seven times more benefits than its cost (Khan et al. 2008). Dillon et al. (2006) reported that the cost of ASR is similar to the cost of drawing water from the Virginia (Australia) pipeline as paid by the irrigators. Peak water demand increases the need to reach or exceed pipeline capacity, which will change the water pricing and make ASR a more affordable technology to meet secure water supplies for irrigation. More importantly, it is an environmentally friendly system to store water in an aquifer compared with surface storage, keeping in view the seepage and evaporation losses occurring from surface water reservoirs. The findings of the research study suggest that ASR is a viable technology to replenish depleted water from aquifers, reverse falling water tables, and reduce the impacts of drought on the crops.

CONCLUSIONS

  • The recovery time was found to be 70% of injected time for injected volumes of 51, 71, and 99 m3, respectively, with a recharge rate of 1.02 m3/min and pumping rate of 1.50 m3/min. The recovery time was found to be 76, 78, and 84% of the injected time for injected volumes of 100 m3, having a retention time of 14, 28, and 56 days, respectively.

  • The RE was found to be 83% for an injected volume of 51 m3, 91% for an injected volume of 71 m3, and 98% for an injected volume of 99 m3 at a retention time of 7 days, whereas the RE for an injected volume of 100 m3 was 74, 62, and 42% for retention times of 14, 28, and 56 days, respectively.

The results suggest that the ASR technique has the potential to store water during periods of surplus water for later usage. Efforts are underway to make the process simpler and cheaper so that farmers can adapt it easily, since they were convinced of the benefits shown during farmers' days celebrated at the site.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors wish to express their sincere thanks to the Endowment Fund Secretariat, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, for providing financial assistance and Ch. Saeed, farmer at T. T. Singh, for his cooperation for facilitating the research study at his own farm.

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