Hydrogeochemical characteristics and health risk assessment of potentially toxic elements in groundwater and their relationship with the ecosystem: case study in Tunisia

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2023 Mar;30(14):40031-40048. doi: 10.1007/s11356-022-25016-y. Epub 2023 Jan 5.


Sidi Bouzid basin knows for several decades a fast-growing anthropogenic activity and, consequently, an increase in groundwater pollution which attracted researcher attention. For this task, we performed an exhaustive study to evaluate groundwater geochemical evolution. Our research begins with analyzing the geochemical process, then determining the water quality indices and their impact on the ecosystem, and after that correlating between different compartments, and ends with the assessment of the human health risk toward NO3-, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cd, and Pb. The dominant facies of the groundwater in the study area are Ca-Mg-SO4 and Ca-Mg-HCO3 and are mainly influenced by evaporite deposits (CaSO4, CaSO4·2H2O, and NaCl). The pollution index of groundwater (PIG) displays values ranging between 0.5 and 4.5 indicating four classes of pollution (insignificant, low, moderate, and high). More than half of the samples (55%) belong to the low and moderate PIG classes. However, the results show elevated values of NO3- concentration; 76% of samples exceed 30 mg/L. Among the studied contaminants, the highest carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risks in study areas were related to NO3-. For all water samples, the risk levels for children were greater than those for adults. Lastly, the partial least square-structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM) shows that the chemical elements do not have a short-term potential impact of pollutants on ecosystems.

Keywords: Groundwater quality; Health risk; Nitrate; PLS-SEM; Tunisia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Groundwater* / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tunisia
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis
  • Water Quality


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical