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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-451
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-451
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 09 Sep 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

A multi-environmental tracer study to determine groundwater residence times and recharge in a structurally complex multi-aquifer system

Cornelia Wilske1,2, Axel Suckow2, Ulf Mallast1, Christiane Meier3, Silke Merchel4, Broder Merkel5, Stefan Pavetich5,6, Tino Rödiger7, Georg Rugel5, Agnes Sachse7, Stephan M. Weise1, and Christian Siebert1 Cornelia Wilske et al.
  • 1Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Dept. Catchment Hydrology, Halle/Saale, 06120, Germany
  • 2CSIRO Land and Water, Urrbrae (SA), 5064, Australia
  • 3UBA Umweltbundesamt, Dessau-Roßlau, 06844, Germany
  • 4Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Dresden, 01328, Germany
  • 5TU Bergakademie Freiberg/Sachs., 09599, Germany
  • 6Australian National University, Dept. Nuclear Physics, Canberra (ACT), 2609, Australia
  • 7Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Dept. Computational Hydrology, Leipzig, 04318, Germany

Abstract. Despite being the main drinking water resource for over five million people, the water balance of the Eastern Mountain Aquifer system on the western side of the Dead Sea is poorly understood. The regional aquifer consists of fractured and karstified limestone – aquifers of Cretaceous age and can be separated in Cenomanian aquifer (upper aquifer) and Albian aquifer (lower aquifer). Both aquifers are exposed along the mountain ridge around Jerusalem, which is the main recharge area. From here, the recharged groundwater flows in a highly karstified aquifer system towards the east, to discharge in springs in the Lower Jordan Valley and Dead Sea region. We investigated the Eastern Mountain Aquifer system on groundwater flow, groundwater age and potential mixtures, and groundwater recharge. We combined 36Cl/Cl, tritium and the anthropogenic gases SF6, CFC-12 and CFC-11, CFC-113 as dating tracers to estimate the young water components inside the Eastern Mountain Aquifer system. By application of lumped parameter models, we verified young groundwater components from the last 10 to 30 years and an admixture of a groundwater component older than about 70 years. Concentrations of nitrate, Simazine® (Pesticide), Acesulfame K® (artificial sweetener) and Naproxen® (drug) in the groundwater were further indications of infiltration during the last 30 years. The combination of multiple environmental tracers and lumped parameter modelling helped to understand the groundwater age distribution and to estimate recharge despite scarce data in this very complex hydrogeological setting. Our groundwater recharge rates support groundwater management of this politically difficult area and can be used to inform and calibrate ongoing groundwater flow models.

Cornelia Wilske et al.
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Short summary
Despite feeding > 5 Mio. people, the flow system and inter-aquifer communication within one of the major aquifer systems in Israel and the Westbank is still poorly understood. We derived groundwater flow patterns, mixing end-members, transport times and recharge estimates for that resource despite very limited data applying a powerful combination of hydrochemistry, anthropogenic organic trace substances and classical environmental age-dating tracers like 3H, CFCs, SF6 and 36Cl/Cl.
Despite feeding  5 Mio. people, the flow system and inter-aquifer communication within one of...
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