New Paper Available: Mechanisms of recharge in a fractured porous rock aquifer in a semi-arid region – December 2017

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new open access journal article in the Journal of Hydrology from the G360 Institute Team.

Mechanisms of recharge in a fractured porous rock aquifer in a semi-arid region: Ferdinando Manna, Kenneth M.Walton, John A.Cherry, Beth L.Parker

Funding for this work was provided by an NSERC Industrial Research Chair (n. IRCPJ 363783) to Professor Beth Parker in partnership with the Boeing Company. Field work was supported by the site owner, their consultants (MWH Inc., now Stantec), and University of Guelph colleagues, especially Amanda Pierce from the G360 Institute for Groundwater Research. The authors also thank Dr. Nicholas M. Johnson from Stantec for helpful comments.

Eleven porewater profiles in rock core from an upland exposed sandstone vadose zone in southern California, with thickness varying between 10 and 62 m, were analyzed for chloride (Cl) concentration to examine recharge mechanisms, estimate travel times in the vadose zone, assess spatial and temporal variability of recharge, and determine effects of land use changes on recharge. As a function of their location and the local terrain, the profiles were classified into four groups reflecting the range of site characteristics. Century- to millennium-average recharge varied from 4 to 23 mm y−1, corresponding to <1–5% of the average annual precipitation (451 mm over the 1878–2016 period). Based on the different average Cl concentrations in the vadose zone and in groundwater, the contribution of diffuse flow (estimated at 80%) and preferential flow (20%) to the total recharge was quantified. This model of dual porosity recharge was tested by simulating transient Cl transport along a physically based narrow column using a discrete fracture-matrix numerical model. Using a new approach based on partitioning both water and Cl between matrix and fracture flow, porewater was dated and vertical displacement rates estimated to range in the sandstone matrix from 3 to 19 cm y−1. Moreover, the temporal variability of recharge was estimated and, along each profile, past recharge rates calculated based on the sequence of Cl concentrations in the vadose zone. Recharge rates increased at specific times coincident with historical changes in land use. The consistency between the timing of land use modifications and changes in Cl concentration and the match between observed and simulated Cl concentration values in the vadose zone provide confidence in porewater age estimates, travel times, recharge estimates, and reconstruction of recharge histories. This study represents an advancement of the application of the chloride mass balance method to simultaneously determine recharge mechanisms and reconstruct location-specific recharge histories in fractured porous rock aquifers. The proposed approach can be applied worldwide at sites with similar climatic and geologic characteristics.

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