“Arsenic in the Groundwaters of Bangladesh” with Alexander Van Geen (May 2003)

by | Jul 28, 2023 | Water Resources

Originally presented May 2003

E. S. Content

The groundwater arsenic crisis in Bangladesh – how extreme spatial variability can be turned to an advantage. 

Over the past 20 years, millions of inexpensive “tube wells” have been installed manually to depths of 90 m (300 ft) throughout Bangladesh and other South Asian countries.  Although these wells supply microbially uncontaminated water, the naturally-elevated arsenic content of the pumped groundwater poses a significant risk of increased cancer for tens of millions of villagers.  How should a crisis of such enormous proportions be tackled?  This is one of the key research themes for health, social, and earth scientists at Columbia University and their colleagues in Bangladesh that are currently supported by the US Superfund Basic Research Program (http://superfund.ciesin.columbia.edu).

Dr. Lex van Geen is a Lamont Research Professor in the Geochemistry Division who has taken charge of coordinating mitigation activities under this program, will present an overview of the problem as well as possible solutions.  Participants will have a chance to navigate through a field of 6000 groundwater arsenic measurements using ArcView to get a sense of the extreme spatial variability of the composition of groundwater.  The local drilling technology will be described and a simple device under development that builds on this technology to sample groundwater before a well is installed will be demonstrated.  The most-widely used field kit for arsenic will also be demonstrated and its limitations will be discussed.

Dr. Van Geen provides more information about these concepts through these links:

Dr. Van Geen’s homepage

Arsenic research

BAMSWP, Dhaka University, and Columbia University “WellTracker”

Recent update (Dec 2015): “Arsenic Contaminate’s India’s Drinking Water” (Scientific American)

Curriculum Activities

Groundwater 2003 (Dr. Michael J. Passow)

Tech Integration

Building your own WebQuest (Desktop Publishing)

Today you will build your own WebQuest while you start practicing some desktop publishing skills. You don’t have to get complicated to build a WebQuest. You can do it in Word (see sample below – third link), put it on the Web (there are several online tools that help you do this which we will see in future workshops), or even do it in PowerPoint!

Today we will use Word to practice:

  • How to copy, paste and activate a hyperlink in a local file (Word, PowerPoint, Inspiration, whatever…)
  • How to toggle back and forth from the Web Browser window to the local document window.
  • How to copy an image from the web to a local document.
  • Saving the document as a template that all students can start the activity from and then save as their own.

Using the materials presented today, think of an activity related to the classroom curriculum you are teaching. Following the Format Sheet (first link below and handouts), you will quickly plan a WebQuest activity using the links provided in the resources section (you can use one, two, or all of them!). You then will start developing a document to present the WebQuest to your students.

  • What is a  Webquest?

    Here are two examples of projects that use Real-time Data, developed by the Steven’s Institute, that you could participate in or get ideas from: