Controlling factors and driving mechanisms of nitrate contamination in groundwater system of Bandung Basin, Indonesia, deduced by combined use of stable isotope ratios, CFC age dating, and socioeconomic parameters

Water Res. 2019 Jan 1;148:292-305. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2018.10.049. Epub 2018 Oct 23.


Number of populations, industry, and economic activities in Indonesia are growing rapidly and these impacts on natural environments raise awareness about water quality issue over the country. Bandung Basin, one of the most growing rapidity urban areas in Indonesia, was assessed for NO3- contamination in groundwater systems, and its controlling factors and driving mechanisms were investigated with the aim to demonstrate novelty on the use of combination of parameters of stable isotope ratios in nitrate (δ15N and δ18O in NO3-), groundwater age (using CFC-12 age tracer), and socioeconomic parameters (land-use, population, and economic database). Groundwater NO3- concentrations at present time did not exceed HWO limit for all the analyzed samples (3.00 mg/L in average with maximum value of 20.69 mg/L, n = 102). Dual stable isotopic analysis together with CFC-12 groundwater age determination suggest that anthropogenic activities are the major causes for increasing NO3- concentrations in groundwater. Those activities under respective land-use are industrial and domestic wastes for urban areas and chemical fertilizers for paddy and plantations areas. In general shallow unconfined aquifer is more vulnerable to NO3- contamination compared with deep confined aquifer because denitrification partly occurs in deep anoxic aquifer and this led attenuation of NO3- pollution in groundwater flowing. However, it seems likely at groundwater depression cones in urban areas that more concentrated waters are transported from shallow aquifer into deep aquifer system through downward vertical fluxes due to excessive pumping. Principal component analysis (PCA) on NO3- concentrations with socioeconomic parameters indicated that industrial and population growths are the main factors related to groundwater NO3- contamination. This result corresponds to CFC-age dating which shows younger (more recently recharged) groundwaters as being more contaminated than older ones do. Our study implies that NO3- contamination in this area may become more severe in future with a lack of necessary controls and treatment for human-induced nitrogen sources. Proposed approach is useful to understand how the NO3- contaminant behaves in large basin aquifer system under urban environments and might be applicable in other developing regions too because increasing populations may be associated with increasing nitrogen loadings.

Keywords: Bandung Basin; CFC age dating; Developing region; Groundwater; Nitrate contamination; Principal component analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Groundwater*
  • Humans
  • Indonesia
  • Isotopes
  • Nitrates
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical*


  • Isotopes
  • Nitrates
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical