Although Iran’s Ghaen Plain provides saffron to much of the world, no regional groundwater quality (GQ) assessment has yet been undertaken. Given the region’s potential for saltwater intrusion and heavy metal contamination, it is important to assess the GQ and determine its main probable source of pollution (MPSP). Such knowledge would allow for informed mitigation or elimination of the potential adverse health effects of this groundwater through its use as drinking water, or indirectly as a result of the consumption of groundwater-irrigated crops. Total dissolved solids, sodium, and chloride in the water of the majority of 16 wells sampled within the region exceeded World Health Organization and Iranian permissible standards for drinking water. The groundwater proved to only be suitable for irrigating salt tolerant crops under good drainage conditions. Due to the precipitation of calcium carbonate in the water supply facilities, the water from all wells was deemed unsuitable for industrial purposes. Heavy metal pollution and contamination indices showed no groundwater contamination. Analysis of ionic ratios and the application of principal components analysis indicated the MPSP to be saltwater intrusion, with the geology subtending the plain, and to a lesser extent, anthropogenic activities. Reducing groundwater withdrawals, particularly those for agricultural production by using high performance irrigation methods could reduce saltwater intrusion and improve GQ in the Ghaen Plain.
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