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Time-series of Tritium, Stable Isotopes and Chloride Reveal Short-term Variations in Groundwater Contribution to a Stream : Volume 12, Issue 8 (18/08/2015)

By Duvert, C.

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Book Id: WPLBN0004012448
Format Type: PDF Article :
File Size: Pages 55
Reproduction Date: 2015

Title: Time-series of Tritium, Stable Isotopes and Chloride Reveal Short-term Variations in Groundwater Contribution to a Stream : Volume 12, Issue 8 (18/08/2015)  
Author: Duvert, C.
Volume: Vol. 12, Issue 8
Language: English
Subject: Science, Hydrology, Earth
Collections: Periodicals: Journal and Magazine Collection (Contemporary), Copernicus GmbH
Publication Date:
Publisher: Copernicus Gmbh, Göttingen, Germany
Member Page: Copernicus Publications


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Raiber, M., Cendón, D. I., Duvert, C., & Stewart, M. K. (2015). Time-series of Tritium, Stable Isotopes and Chloride Reveal Short-term Variations in Groundwater Contribution to a Stream : Volume 12, Issue 8 (18/08/2015). Retrieved from

Description: Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD 4001, Australia. A major limitation to the accurate assessment of streamwater transit time (TT) stems from the use of stable isotopes or chloride as hydrological tracers, because these tracers are blind to older contributions. Also, while catchment processes are highly non-stationary, the importance of temporal dynamics in older water TT has often been overlooked. In this study we used lumped convolution models to examine time-series of tritium, stable isotopes and chloride in rainfall, streamwater and groundwater of a catchment located in subtropical Australia. Our objectives were to assess the different contributions to streamflow and their variations over time, and to understand the relationships between streamwater TT and groundwater residence time. Stable isotopes and chloride provided consistent estimates of TT in the upstream part of the catchment. A young component to streamflow was identified that was partitioned into quickflow (mean TT ≈ 2 weeks) and discharge from the fractured igneous rocks forming the headwaters (mean TT ≈ 0.3 years). The use of tritium was beneficial for determining an older contribution to streamflow in the downstream area. The best fits were obtained for a mean TT of 16–25 years for this older groundwater component. This was significantly lower than the residence time calculated for the alluvial aquifer feeding the stream downstream (≈ 76–102 years), outlining the fact that water exiting the catchment and water stored in it had distinctive age distributions. When simulations were run separately on each tritium streamwater sample, the TT of old water fraction varied substantially over time, with values averaging 17 ± 6 years at low flow and 38 ± 15 years after major recharge events. This was interpreted as the flushing out of deeper, older waters shortly after recharge by the resulting pressure wave propagation. Overall, this study shows the usefulness of collecting tritium data in streamwater to document short-term variations in the older component of the TT distribution. Our results also shed light on the complex relationships between stored water and water in transit, which are highly nonlinear and remain poorly understood.

Time-series of tritium, stable isotopes and chloride reveal short-term variations in groundwater contribution to a stream

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