Using geochemistry to understand water sources and transit times in headwater streams of a temperate rainforest

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Elsevier B. V.
Understanding the sources and transit times of water that generates streamflow in headwater streams is important for understanding catchment functioning. This study determines the water sources and transit times in first-order streams from a temperate rainforest in the Otway Ranges, southeast Australia. Comparison of the major ion geochemistry of soil water, water flowing through soil pipes (macropores), and groundwater from the riparian zone adjacent to the stream suggests that water from soil pipes is the major contributor to streamflow. The tritium (3H) activities of the stream water are between 1.80 and 2.06 TU, the water from the soil pipes has 3H activities between 1.80 and 2.25 TU, the riparian zone groundwater has 3H activities of 1.35–2.39 TU, and one sample of soil water has a 3H activity of 2.22 TU. These 3H activities are significantly lower than those of local modern rainfall (2.6–3.0 TU), and mean transit times calculated using a range of lumped parameter models are between 3 and 57 years. These estimates are consistent with the major ion and stable isotope data, which imply that mean transit times were sufficiently long to allow weathering of minerals and/or organic matter and evapotranspiration to occur. The long mean transit times imply that water flows in this upper catchment are buffered against year-on-year variations in rainfall, but may change due to longer-term variations in rainfall or landuse. © 2018 Elsevier Ltd.
Tritium, Geochemistry, Streams, Victoria, Australia, Water, Soils, Rain water, Watersheds, Land use
Cartwright, I., Atkinson, A. P., Gilfedder, B. S., Hofmann, H., Cendón, D. I., & Morgenstern, U. (2018). Using geochemistry to understand water sources and transit times in headwater streams of a temperate rainforest. Applied Geochemistry, 99, 1-12. doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2018.10.018