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We must ensure clean water for the future

The new GEOCON research project will help save our precious water resources from pollution by developing methods to assess the risk of spreading hazardous substances from contaminated areas to ground and surface water.

2014.01.23 | Mette Helm

While most people in Denmark take clean drinking water for granted, researchers from institutions including Aarhus University are right now furrowing their brows to find out how we can ensure our groundwater for future generations by preventing contamination from sources such as waste dumps (Photo: Colourbox)

Do you ever think about what is contained in the crystal clear drops of water that fill your glass when you turn on the tap? And about how much work is required to find the water, extract it from the subsurface and deliver it directly to your sink and hand basin? We are used to taking clean running water for granted in our households. We simply turn on the tap when we are thirsty or want to boil some spaghetti.

Ensuring clean drinking water is neither easy nor cheap, however. Our water resources are at considerable risk from contaminated sites because environmentally hazardous substances from sources such as waste dumps can seep into the groundwater reservoirs and out into lakes and streams. This not only constitutes a threat to our drinking water, but can also put pressure on our ecosystems.

The Danish community therefore spends large amounts every year on carrying out risk assessments and decontaminating polluted sites. This work will now get a much-needed boost from the new GEOCON research project, with the participation of Aarhus University. The researchers involved in the project will develop a new generation of concepts, study methods and tools that not only map the geological conditions of contaminated sites, but also convert the data to a specific assessment of the pollution risk for the ground and surface water in the area. At Aarhus University, researchers at the Department of Geoscience will develop new geophysical measuring instruments that can improve the identification of the extent of pollution in waste dumps, for example.

“By using geophysical instruments to take measurements from the surface, we can relatively quickly gain detailed information about the geological conditions and pollution from a waste dump. Common investigation methods are based on drillings that are relatively expensive and time-consuming. Using the improved assessment tools developed in this project, the Danish regions responsible for the risk assessment of contaminated sites will gain a more certain and more rapid assessment,” says Professor Esben Auken, Aarhus University.

The Danish Council for Strategic Research has just granted DKK 15 million to the research project from its pool for sustainable energy and the environment. GEOCON is headed by Professor Poul Løgstrup Bjerg, Technical University of Denmark, and will be carried out in collaboration with Aarhus University, the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), the Region of Southern Denmark, the Central Denmark Region, the University of Bonn, the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University, the University of Kansas, and Orbicon – a company that provides engineering consultancy services. The project is scheduled to run until 2018, and the methods developed during this period are expected to be used all over the world by researchers, authorities and advisers.

For more information, please contact

Professor Esben Auken
Department of Geoscience
Aarhus University
esben.auken@geo.au.dk
Direct phone: +45 8715 6383
Mobile phone: +45 2899 2587

Associate Professor Anders Vest Christiansen
Department of Geoscience
Aarhus University
anders.vest@geo.au.dk
Direct phone: +45 8716 2379
Mobile phone: +45 2945 4305

Science and Technology, Public / media, Research