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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-328
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
31 Jul 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
Using hydraulic head, chloride and electrical conductivity data to distinguish between mountain-front and mountain-block recharge to basin aquifers
Etienne Bresciani1,2, Roger H. Cranswick1,3, Eddie W. Banks1, Jordi Batlle-Aguilar1,4, Peter G. Cook1, and Okke Batelaan1 1National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, School of the Environment, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia
2Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul, 02792, Republic of Korea
3Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Government of South Australia, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia
4Kansas Geological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66047, USA
Abstract. Numerous basin aquifers in arid and semi-arid regions of the world derive a significant portion of their recharge from adjacent mountains. Recharge can effectively occur through either stream infiltration in the mountain front zone (mountain-front recharge, MFR) or subsurface flow from the mountain (mountain-block recharge, MBR). While a thorough understanding of the recharge mechanisms is critical for water resource management, distinguishing between MFR and MBR is typically difficult. Here we present a relatively simple approach that uses hydraulic head, chloride and electrical conductivity data to distinguish between MFR and MBR. These types of data are inexpensive to measure, and in many cases are readily available from hydrogeological databases. In principle, hydraulic head can inform on groundwater flow directions and stream-aquifer interactions, while chloride can help to distinguish between different groundwater pathways if the sources have distinct concentrations. Electrical conductivity values can be converted to chloride concentrations using an empirical relationship, and hence can be used in a similar manner to chloride, thereby significantly increasing the data set. The practical feasibility and effectiveness of this approach are tested through the case study of the Adelaide Plains basin, South Australia, for which a wealth of historical groundwater level, chloride and electrical conductivity data is available. Hydraulic head data suggest that streams are gaining in the adjacent Mount Lofty Ranges and losing when entering the basin. They also indicate that not only the Quaternary sediments but also the underlying Tertiary sediments receive significant recharge from stream leakage in the mountain front zone. Chloride data also reveal clear spatial patterns suggesting that MFR dominates recharge of the low salinity groundwater found in the basin. This interpretation is further supported by stream water chloride analysis. This study demonstrates that both hydraulic head and chloride data can be effectively used to distinguish between MFR and MBR.

Citation: Bresciani, E., Cranswick, R. H., Banks, E. W., Batlle-Aguilar, J., Cook, P. G., and Batelaan, O.: Using hydraulic head, chloride and electrical conductivity data to distinguish between mountain-front and mountain-block recharge to basin aquifers, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-328, in review, 2017.
Etienne Bresciani et al.
Etienne Bresciani et al.
Etienne Bresciani et al.

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Short summary
This article tackles the problem of finding out where the groundwater comes from in basin aquifers adjacent to mountains. In particular, we wish to determine whether recharge occurs predominantly through stream infiltration along the mountain front or through subsurface flow from the mountain. To achieve this, we investigate the use of routinely measured variables: hydraulic head, chloride and electrical conductivity. A case study from Australia demonstrates the approach.
This article tackles the problem of finding out where the groundwater comes from in basin...
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