Application of environmental isotopes of hydrogen (3H), Carbon (13C & 14C) and oxygen (16O/18O) in studies of groundwater-streamflow interactions

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International Atomic Energy Agency
A current major effort in Australian water management is the conjunctive management of hydraulically connected Groundwater and Surface water systems, to provide the maximum benefit to water stakeholders. In particular Australia has a legislative limit on the amount of surface water that can be utilised in a particular catchment, but that is not the case for Groundwater, leading to tension amongst users in connected systems. Valley and Murray-Darling Basin, NSW. Streamflow was sampled using a plastic bailer while groundwaters were withdrawn with the use of a Grundfos MP1 environmental sampling pump. They were analysed for stable isotopes ({sup 2}H/H, {sup 18}O/{sup 16}O) ratios, tritium ({sup 3}H), radiocarbon ({sup 14}C) and major and minor chemical species. Rainwaters were collected and analysed for stable isotopes only. Previous tritium in precipitation data were also utilised. Ion Chromatography was used for the analysis of the anions while either ICP-MS or ICP-AES was used for cations. The tritium analysis was carried out by standard procedures of electrolytic concentration and liquid scintillation counting. Analysis of the water samples for deuterium was conducted by CSIRO, Isotope Analysis laboratory using the zinc reduction method and a VG Isogas mass spectrometer (error; {+-} 0.8 per mille). Radiocarbon in groundwaters are measured using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). The water samples are filtered to 45 {mu}m prior to CO{sub 2} collection. Dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) is separated by acidifying the water samples with 85% phosphoric acid, the resulting CO{sub 2} is collected by sparging with He for 15 mins and cryogenic trapping. The CO{sub 2} is purified by heating overnight to 600 deg. C in the presence of Ag wire. Graphite targets are then prepared by the reduction of the CO{sub 2} using H{sub 2} with an Fe catalyst at 600 deg. C. The resulting graphite/iron mix is measured in the ANTARES 10MV Tandem Accelerator. The determination of oxygen-18 was conducted at the University of Wollongong using the CO{sub 2} gas equilibration method, purified using a Micromass Multiprep Unit and measured on a Micromass Prism III (error; {+-} 0.1 per mille). A plot of tritium activity versus borehole location and depth, indicates that the Brogo River (Bega Valley, NSW) is not recharging the adjacent alluvium since the tritium is much lower than in the streamwater. The Bega river however is recharging the adjacent alluvium, both above and below its confluence with the Brogo river, since tritium values are similar in stream and alluvium. Isotopes such as the stable and radioactive isotopes of water and carbon are particularly appropriate for the study of these connected water systems, providing a clear method of determining the source of groundwater, and hence the extent of mixing of nearby surface water (such as the local river), and the time frame for the mixing process. In particular the stable isotopes 2-H, 18-O, and 13-C provide a robust end-member analysis for the hydrographic separation of regional groundwater and any amount of river water which was replenished at a remote location; while the radioactive isotopes 3-H and 14-C are used to confirm the presence in groundwater of (isotopically modern) surface water, but also accurately determine the apparent rate of mixing at particular distances from the river. © The Authors
Ground water, Australia, Surface waters, Watersheds, Tritium, Ion exchange chromatography, Deuterium, Sampling
Stone, D., Jacobsen, G., Hughes, C., & Szymczak, R. (2005). Application of environmental isotopes of hydrogen (3H), Carbon (13C & 14C) and oxygen (16O/18O) in studies of groundwater-streamflow interactions. Paper presented to International Conference on Isotopes in Environmental Studies – Aquatic Forum 2004 Monte-Carlo, Monaco 25–29 October 2004. In Book of extended synopses. Retrieved from,-15,800