An assessment of the intrinsic aquifer vulnerability of South America is presented. The outcomes represent the potential sensitivity of natural aquifers to leaching of dissolved compounds from the land surface. The study, developed at continental scale but retaining regionally a high resolution, is based on a critical application of the DRASTIC method. The biggest challenge in performing such a study in South America was the scattered and irregular nature of environmental datasets. Accordingly, the most updated information on soil, land use, geology, hydrogeology, and climate at continental, national, and regional scale were selected from international and local databases. To avoid spatial discrepancy and inconsistency, data were integrated, harmonized, and accurately cross-checked, using local professional knowledge where information was missing. The method was applied in a GIS environment to allow spatial analysis of raw data along with the overlaying and rating of maps. The application of the DRASTIC method allows to classify South America into five vulnerability classes, from very low to very high, and shows an overall medium to low vulnerability at continental scale. The Amazon region, coastal aquifers, colluvial Andean valleys, and alluvial aquifers of main rivers were the areas classified as highly vulnerable. Moreover, countries with the largest areas with high aquifer vulnerability were those characterized by extended regions of rainforest. In addition, a single parameter sensitivity analysis showed depth to water table to be the most significant factor, while a cross-validation using existing vulnerability assessments and observed concentrations of compounds in groundwater confirmed the reliability of the proposed assessment, even at regional scale. Overall, although additional field surveys and detailed works at local level are needed to develop effective water management plans, the present DRASTIC map represents an essential common ground towards a more sustainable land-use and water management in the whole territory of South America.
Assessment of intrinsic aquifer vulnerability at continental scale through a critical application of the drastic framework: The case of South America / Rama, F.; Busico, G.; Arumi, J. L.; Kazakis, N.; Colombani, N.; Marfella, L.; Hirata, R.; Kruse, E. E.; Sweeney, P.; Mastrocicco, M.. - In: SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT. - ISSN 0048-9697. - ELETTRONICO. - 823:(2022), p. 153748. [10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.153748]