Natural Attenuation of Emerging Pharmaceuticals by Bank Filtration in Addressing Regional Groundwater Management Issues

Milan A. Dimkić1, Dušan. Đurić1, Miodrag Milovanović1, Mila Laušević2, Goran Jevtić1 and Anđelka Petković1
1 Jaroslav Cerni Institute for the Development of Water Resources, 80 Jaroslav Cerni St., 11223 Belgrade, Serbia; e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
2 University of Belgrade, Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, Department of Analytical Chemistry, Karnegijeva 4, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia; e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Some two million inhabitants live in Serbia’s Province of Vojvodina. Drinking water supplies for this population rely on groundwater abstraction. Of a total of some 7m3/s of water, roughly 30% originates from alluvial sources and the remaining 70% from deep subartesian aquifers. The province is made up of three regions (Banat, Bačka and Srem). In a considerable portion of the territory, the use of deep aquifers is coupled with baseline quality and over-exploitation problems. There is no straightforward solution. It is being sought in the delivery of additional water from the Danube alluvion. Two abstraction methods are available: direct withdrawal of water from the Danube’s main stream, and bank filtration. Bank filtration would allow for natural purification of the Danube water within the alluvial aquifer. Among other things, this will reduce concentrations of total organic carbon and various micropollutants, such as emerging pharmaceuticals. The development of a regional water supply system for Banat and the delivery of bank-filtrated water from the Danube alluvion would provide a long-term solution for the drinking water supply in Banat. Bank filtration (or artificial recharge) is the method of choice in this case because of the effectiveness of natural filtration and the improved quality of abstracted groundwater. This approach, involving natural purification of water, has wider significance and can be followed in addressing drinking water supply issues in the entire Danube River Basin.
Keywords: bank filtration, groundwater, pharmaceuticals, regional source, Vojvodina


Seventy percent of the groundwater abstracted in Vojvodina (100% for drinking water supplies) originates from a complex of subartesian (in parts artesian) aquifers or Eopleistocene (50-250 m deep) and lower Pleistocene aquifers. The remaining 30% traces to upper Holocene aquifers (generally alluvial groundwater).
The extent of the Eopleistocene complex (also referred to as the Basic Water-bearing Complex, BWC) generally coincides with that of the former Pannonian Sea. The BWC aquifers formed in this region extend into several countries (Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Croatia), and, as a result, groundwater management of the BWC and the older Pleistocene aquifers is a transboundary issue.
The BWC is recharged in South Hungary, along the eastern border between Serbia and Romania (Vršačko Brdo, Kruščica), and in the Deliblato Sands area (Figure 1). In Vojvodina, groundwater is abstracted from the BWC at a rate of about 4.5 m3/s. Despite the recharge, these aquifers are being over-exploited by about 1.5-2 m3/s, resulting in a declining piezometric head. In addition to the major groundwater over-exploitation problem, there are baseline quality issues in the region. Namely, a considerable portion of the BWC features an “excess” chemical load, largely due to elevated organic matter and arsenic concentrations. Treatment of such groundwater is often extremely challenging and costly.