Limited groundwater resources in arid regions have been found polluted for drinking purpose due to the presence of natural minerals and radioactive substances, in the sub-soils, higher than the drinking water quality standards. Municipalities in these regions are spending extensive resources to transport (from well fields) and treat this raw water to provide safe water to the community. Regular monitoring of various physical, chemical, and radioactive water quality parameters (WQPs) in raw water generates large datasets, which makes it difficult to come up with convenient findings for both the decision-makers and general public. A hierarchical water quality assessment framework develops three sub-indices, an overall water quality index, and a system for ranking of groundwater wells. Fuzzy analytical hierarchy process (fuzzy-AHP) establishes the importance weights of different WQPs and the sub-indices based on their impacts on human health, treatment processes, distribution system infrastructure, and irrigation applications. Fuzzy VIekriterijumsko KOmpromisno Rangiranje (fuzzy-VIKOR) method aggregates the WQPs’ performance for each well and ranks all the wells in a well field based on their overall pollution levels, i.e., remoteness from the applicable standards. For evaluating the pragmatism of the framework, data of 11 WQPs were obtained for 39 wells operating in three different well fields located along the boundaries and the central part of Buraydah, Qassim, Saudi Arabia. Spatial water quality maps showing physical, chemical, radioactive, and overall water quality assessment results revealed that the oldest well field located in the middle of the city outperforms the other two more recently developed well fields with lesser anthropogenic activities in their catchments. These findings testify that the primary source of contamination in deep aquifers is the natural sub-soil condition. The water quality indices will be useful to demonstrate the current situation of groundwater quality in Qassim Region and will facilitate the decision-makers for defining the intended uses of raw water sources (i.e., drinking, unrestricted irrigation, and restricted irrigation) and rehabilitation and renewal planning of the groundwater wells. The framework is applicable in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Gulf Region, and elsewhere for groundwater quality assessment with desired modifications.
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