Acacia Water and TU Delft

Critical Zone Hydrology Group



Global change impacts

Sustainable aquifer use

Reactive transport
Systems analysis
Gw-Sw interactions
Managed recharge
Thermal energy & CO2



Valorisation and services

Photo gallery


Reactive and pollutant transport

Theme leader: Dr. Boris van Breukelen

The water cycle drives the flow of fresh water and its chemical constituents through the terrestrial system. On its way the water's chemical composition changes due to biogeochemical reactions such as mineral dissolution/precipitation, ion-exchange, and redox processes, as well as by evaporation and mixing with other water sources. Thus, both transport and reactive processes control the spatial-temporal dynamics of water quality. The natural evolution of the water's chemical composition may become affected by diffuse (fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture) and point-source pollution (chemicals released at industrial sites). Knowledge of reactive transport processes is also a prerequisite for the assessment and optimization of such widely used aquifer technologies as monitored natural attenuation of pollutants (MNA), aquifer storage and recovery (ASR), aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES), subsurface iron and arsenic removal (SIR/SAR), and carbon capture and storage (CCS). The overall aim of the Group's reactive and pollutant transport research is to improve our understanding and prediction of natural and human-induced water quality dynamics through the quantitative study of the governing reactive transport processes and controlling factors. The Group combines field research with laboratory (batch, column) experiments and reactive transport modeling (RTM). In particular use is made of PHREEQC, PHAST (PHREEQC coupled to HST3D), PHT3D (PHREEQC coupled to MODFLOW/MT3DMS), and (recently) the Hydrogeosphere model for catchment-scale modeling. In addition, these are combined with microbiological, isotope hydrological, and age dating techniques.

Current Projects

Model-assisted interpretation of compound-specific stable isotope analysis (CSIA) data in catchments

PhD project: Stefanie Lutz
Duration: 2011-2014
Funding: 7th Framework Programme of the European Union (Marie Curie Initial Training Network CSI:ENVIRONMENT, contract number PITN-GA-2010-264329)


Model-assisted interpretation of compound-specific stable isotope analysis (CSIA) data in polluted aquifers

PhD project: Héloïse Thouement
Duration: 2012-2015
Funding: 7th Framework Programme of the European Union (Marie Curie Initial Training Network CSI:ENVIRONMENT, contract number PITN-GA-2010-264329)


An integrated stable isotope-reactive transport model approach for assessment of chlorinated solvent degradation

Duration: 2011-2013
Funding: Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) project ER-201029

Researchers and Collaborators:

Related Projects

Sustainable systems for underground storage of drinking water

PhD project: Andreas Antoniou
Duration: 2009-2013
Funding: TTIW Programme Register 'Interaction with Natural Systems'.

Effects of aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) on chemical and microbiological groundwater quality

PhD project: Matthijs Bonte
Duration: 2009-2013
Funding: Joint Research Program of the united Dutch water companies

Aquifer Storage and Recovery as a tool for self-sufficient fresh water supply

PhD project: Koen Zuurbier
Duration: 2010-2014
Funding: Knowledge for Climate

Numerical modeling of coupled physico-chemical processes during and following CO2 storage in saline aquifers and depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs

PhD project: Zaman ZiabakhshGanj
Duration: March 2011- November 2014
Funding: Dutch national R&D programme on CO2 capture, transport and storage (CATO-2)

Associated Collaborative Projects

Subsurface arsenic removal for safe drinking water in Bangladesh

External PhD project: Moshiur Rahman (TU Delft; NWO WOTRO)


Enhanced in situ biodenitrification for nitrate-polluted groundwater

External PhD project: Paula Rodríguez-Escales (d D'ENGINY biorem, Autonomous University of Barcelona)


Project description: Groundwater pollution by nitrate is an important environmental problem. Enhanced in-situ biodenitrification is a clean and economical technology that allows remediating nitrate-polluted groundwater. In this context, development of reactive transport models (RTM) in order to predict rates of in situ biodenitrification is a useful tool to design and monitor the performance of this technology. The main objective of this project is the development of models of enhanced in-situ biodenitrification at different scales, from batch to field scale. The models involve microbiological processes, main geochemical interactions with aquifer and isotopic fractionation during denitrification.

Age dating of young groundwaters

External project TNO/Deltares: Exploring the use of age tracers (3h/3He, 39Ar, 85Kr, CFSs, SF6) to derive travel time distributions and explain groundwater quality trends
Duration: 2009-present
Funding: TNO co-financing program, Vitens N.V., EU FPVII Aquaterra

Recently finished projects

Hydrogeochemical studies on the fate of manure derived N in groundwater

External PhD project: Yanchun Zhang
Duration: 2006-2012
Funding: Dutch organisation for Fundamental Research (NWO)

Key publications

An overview presentation of current RTM research by the Group was presented in the following Boussinesq lecture by B. van Breukelen

Reactive transport modeling

Reactive transport modeling of isotope fractionation processes

Compound-specific stable isotope analysis (CSIA)

Age dating and monitoring reactive processes in aquifers

Last modified: Mon Dec 28 14:51:35 CET 2015