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Using dissolved noble gas and isotopic tracers to evaluate the vulnerability of groundwater resources in a small, high elevation catchment to predicted climate changes

Description: We use noble gas concentrations and multiple isotopic tracers in groundwater and stream water in a small high elevation catchment to provide a snapshot of temperature, altitude, and physical processes at the time of recharge; and to determine subsurface residence times of different groundwater components. They identify three sources that contribute to groundwater flow: (1) seasonal groundwater recharge with short travel times, (2) water from bedrock aquifers that have elevated radiogenic {sup 4}He, and (3) upwelling of deep fluids that have 'mantle' helium and hydrothermal carbon isotope signatures. Although a bimodal distribution in apparent groundwater age indicates that groundwater storage times range from less than a year to several decades, water that recharges seasonally is the largest likely contributor to stream baseflow. Under climate change scnearios with earlier snowmelt, the groundwater that moves through the alluvial aquifer seasonally will be depleted earlier, providing less baseflow and possible extreme low flows in the creek during summer and fall. Dissolved noble gas measurements indciate recharge temperatures are 5 to 11 degrees higher than would be expected for direct influx of snowmelt, and that excess air concentrations are lower than would be expected for recharge through bedrock fractures. Instead, recharge likely occurs over diffuse vegetated areas, as indicated by {delta}{sup 13}C-DIC values that are consistent with incorporation of CO{sub 2} from soil respiration. Recharge temperatures are close to or slightly higher than mean annual air temperature, and are consistent with recharge during May and June, when snowpack melting occurs.
Date: October 2, 2009
Creator: Singleton, M J & Moran, J E
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Evidence for Groundwater Contamination Vulnerability in California?s Central Valley

Description: The California Water Resources Control Board, in collaboration with the US Geological Survey and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has implemented a program to assess the susceptibility of groundwater resources. Advanced techniques such as groundwater age dating using the tritium-helium method, extensive use of oxygen isotopes of the water molecule ({delta}{sup 18}O) for recharge water provenance, and analysis of common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at ultra-low levels are applied with the goal of assessing the contamination vulnerability of deep aquifers, which are frequently used for public drinking water supply. Over 1200 public drinking water wells have been tested to date, resulting in a very large, tightly spaced collection of groundwater ages in some of the heavily exploited groundwater basins of California. Smaller scale field studies that include shallow monitoring wells are aimed at assessing the probability that nitrate will be transported to deep drinking water aquifers. When employed on a basin-scale, groundwater ages are an effective tool for identifying recharge areas, defining flowpaths, and determining the rate of transport of water and entrained contaminants. De-convolution of mixed ages, using ancillary dissolved noble gas data, gives insight into the water age distribution drawn at a well, and into the effective dilution of contaminants such as nitrate at long-screened production wells. In combination with groundwater ages, low-level VOCs are used to assess the impact of vertical transport. Special studies are focused on the fate and transport of nitrate with respect to vulnerability of aquifers in agricultural and formerly agricultural areas.
Date: December 13, 2005
Creator: Moran, J E; Leif, R; Esser, B K & Singleton, M J
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

GAMA-LLNL Alpine Basin Special Study: Scope of Work

Description: For this task LLNL will examine the vulnerability of drinking water supplies in foothills and higher elevation areas to climate change impacts on recharge. Recharge locations and vulnerability will be determined through examination of groundwater ages and noble gas recharge temperatures in high elevation basins. LLNL will determine whether short residence times are common in one or more subalpine basin. LLNL will measure groundwater ages, recharge temperatures, hydrogen and oxygen isotopes, major anions and carbon isotope compositions on up to 60 samples from monitoring wells and production wells in these basins. In addition, a small number of carbon isotope analyses will be performed on surface water samples. The deliverable for this task will be a technical report that provides the measured data and an interpretation of the data from one or more subalpine basins. Data interpretation will: (1) Consider climate change impacts to recharge and its impact on water quality; (2) Determine primary recharge locations and their vulnerability to climate change; and (3) Delineate the most vulnerable areas and describe the likely impacts to recharge.
Date: December 12, 2011
Creator: Singleton, M J; Visser, A; Esser, B K & Moran, J E
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Isotopic Survey of Lake Davis and the Local Groundwater

Description: In September 2007, California Fish and Game (CAFG) plans to eradicate the northern pike from Lake Davis. As a result of the eradication treatment, local residents have concerns that the treatment might impact the local groundwater quality. To address the concerns of the residents, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) recommended measuring the naturally occurring stable oxygen isotopes in local groundwater wells, Lake Davis, and the Lake Davis tributaries. The purpose of these measurements is to determine if the source of the local groundwater is either rain/snowmelt, Lake Davis/Big Grizzly Creek water or a mixture of Lake Davis/Big Grizzly Creek and rain/snowmelt. As a result of natural evaporation, Lake Davis and the water flowing into Big Grizzly Creek are naturally enriched in {sup 18}oxygen ({sup 18}O), and if a source of a well's water is Lake Davis or Big Grizzly Creek, the well water will contain a much higher concentration of {sup 18}O. This survey will allow for the identification of groundwater wells whose water source is Lake Davis or Big Grizzly Creek. The results of this survey will be useful in the development of a water-quality monitoring program for the upcoming Lake Davis treatment. LLNL analyzed 167 groundwater wells (Table 1), 12 monthly samples from Lake Davis (Table 2), 3 samples from Lake Davis tributaries (Table 2), and 8 Big Grizzly Creek samples (Table 2). Of the 167 groundwater wells sampled and analyzed, only 2 wells contained a significant component of evaporated water, with an isotope composition similar to Lake Davis water. The other 163 groundwater wells have isotope compositions which indicate that their water source is rain/snowmelt.
Date: August 21, 2007
Creator: Ridley, M N; Moran, J E & Singleton, M J
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Chemical and Isotopic Tracers for Characterization Of Groundwater Systems

Description: In many regions, three dimensional characterization of the groundwater regime is limited by coarse well spacing or borehole lithologic logs of low quality. However, regulatory requirements for drinking water or site remediation may require collection of extensive chemical and water quality data from existing wells. Similarly, for wells installed in the distant past, lithologic logs may not be available, but the wells can be sampled for chemical and isotopic constituents. In these situations, a thorough analysis of trends in chemical and isotopic constituents can be a key component in characterizing the regional groundwater system. On a basin or subbasin scale, especially in areas of intensive groundwater management where artificial recharge is important, introduction of an extrinsic tracer can provide a robust picture of groundwater flow. Dissolved gases are particularly good tracers since a large volume of water can be tagged, there are no real or perceived health risks associated with the tracer, and a very large dynamic range allows detection of a small amount of tagged water in well discharge. Recent applications of the application of extrinsic tracers, used in concert with intrinsic chemical and isotopic tracers, demonstrate the power of chemical analyses in interpreting regional subsurface flow regimes.
Date: September 13, 2007
Creator: Moran, J E; Singleton, M J; Carle, S F & Esser, B K
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Pore Connectivity, Episodic Flow, and Unsaturated Diffusion in Fractured Tuff

Description: We use an integrated approach consisting of experiments and complementary pore-scale network modeling to investigate the occurrence of sparsely connected pore spaces in rock matrices at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and its implication to matrix diffusion. Imbibition results indicate that pore spaces in devitrified tuff are not well-connected, and that this lack of connectivity is further compounded by episodic flow in fractured devitrified tuff with low matrix permeability. A rigorous methodology for investigating chemical transport in fractured rock under episodic conditions, employing a suite of both sorbing and non-sorbing tracers (including radionuclides U-235, Np-237, and Pu-242), has been developed and implemented. In addition, gas diffusion and synchrotron microtomography techniques have been under development to examine the scaling issues of diffusion and pore connectivity. Preliminary results from experiments and modeling work are presented in this paper, in order to reexamine our understanding of matrix diffusion and to evaluate the impact on diffusive radionuclide retardation of episodic fracture flow and low pore connectivity.
Date: January 30, 2006
Creator: Hu, Q; Ewing, R P; Tomutsa, L & Singleton, M J
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

PORE CONNECTIVITY, EPISODIC FLOW, AND UNSATURATED DIFFUSION IN FRACTURED TUFF

Description: We use an integrated approach consisting of experiments and complementary pore-scale network modeling to investigate the occurrence of sparsely connected pore spaces in rock matrices at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and their implications for matrix diffusion. Imbibition results indicate that pore spaces in devitrified tuff are not well-connected, and that this lack of connectivity is further compounded by episodic flow in fractured devitrified tuff with low matrix permeability. A rigorous methodology for investigating chemical transport in fractured rock under episodic conditions, employing a suite of both sorbing and non-sorbing tracers (including radionuclides U-235, Np-237, and Pu-242), has been developed and implemented. In addition, gas diffusion and synchrotron microtomography techniques have been under development to examine the scaling issues of diffusion and pore connectivity. Preliminary results from experiments and modeling work are presented in this paper, confirming the need to reexamine our understanding of matrix diffusion and to evaluate the impact on diffusive radionuclide retardation of episodic fracture flow and low pore connectivity.
Date: February 21, 2006
Creator: Hu, Q.; Ewing, R.P.; Tomutsa, L. & Singleton, M.J.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

California GAMA Special Study: An isotopic and dissolved gas investigation of nitrate source and transport to a public supply well in California's Central Valley

Description: This study investigates nitrate contamination of a deep municipal drinking water production well in Ripon, CA to demonstrate the utility of natural groundwater tracers in constraining the sources and transport of nitrate to deep aquifers in the Central Valley. The goal of the study was to investigate the origin (source) of elevated nitrate and the potential for the deep aquifer to attenuate anthropogenic nitrate. The site is ideal for such an investigation. The production well is screened from 165-325 feet below ground surface and a number of nearby shallow and deep monitoring wells were available for sampling. Furthermore, potential sources of nitrate contamination to the well had been identified, including a fertilizer supply plant located approximately 1000 feet to the east and local almond groves. A variety of natural isotopic and dissolved gas tracers including {sup 3}H-{sup 3}He groundwater age and the isotopic composition of nitrate are applied to identify nitrate sources and to characterize nitrate transport. An advanced method for sampling production wells is employed to help identify contaminant contributions from specific screen intervals. Nitrate transport: Groundwater nitrate at this field site is not being actively denitrified. Groundwater parameters indicate oxic conditions, the dissolved gas data shows no evidence for excess nitrogen as the result of denitrification, and nitrate-N and -O isotope compositions do not display patterns typical of denitrification. Contaminant nitrate source: The ambient nitrate concentration in shallow groundwater at the Ripon site ({approx}12 mg/L as nitrate) is typical of shallow groundwaters affected by recharge from agricultural and urban areas. Nitrate concentrations in Ripon City Well 12 (50-58 mg/L as nitrate) are significantly higher than these ambient concentrations, indicating an additional source of anthropogenic nitrate is affecting groundwater in the capture zone of this municipal drinking water well. This study provides two new pieces of evidence that the ...
Date: April 14, 2010
Creator: Singleton, M J; Moran, J E; Esser, B K; Roberts, S K & Hillegonds, D J
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Chloride-mass-balance for predicting increased recharge after land-use change

Description: The chloride-mass-balance (CMB) method has been used extensively to estimate recharge in arid and semi-arid environments. Required data include estimates of annual precipitation, total chloride input (from dry fallout and precipitation), and pore-water chloride concentrations. Typically, CMB has been used to estimate ancient recharge but recharge from recent land-use change has also been documented. Recharge rates below a few mm/yr are reliably detected with CMB; however, estimates above a few mm/yr appear to be less reliable. We tested the CMB method against 26 years of drainage from a 7.6-m-deep lysimeter at a simulated waste-burial ground, located on the Department of Energy s Hanford Site in southeastern Washington State, USA where land-use change has increased recharge rates. Measured drainage from the lysimeter for the past 26 years averaged 62 mm/yr. Precipitation averaged 190 mm/yr with an estimated chloride input of 0.225 mg/L. Initial pore-water chloride concentration was 88 mg/L and decreased to about 6 mg/L after 26 years, while the drainage water decreased to less than 1 mg/L. A recharge estimate made using chloride concentrations in drain water was within 20 percent of the measured drainage rate. In contrast, recharge estimates using 1:1 (water: soil) extracts were lower than actual by factors ranging from 2 to 8 or more. The results suggest that when recharge is above a few mm/yr, soil water extracts can lead to unreliable estimates of recharge. For conditions of elevated recharge, direct sampling of pore water is the preferred method, because chloride concentrations are often 20 to 50 times higher in directly-sampled pore water than in pore-water extracts.
Date: February 23, 2004
Creator: Gee, G.W.; Zhang, Z.F.; Tyler, S.W.; Albright, W.H. & Singleton, M.J.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Saturated Zone Denitrification at California Dairies

Description: Denitrification can effectively mitigate the problem of high nitrate concentrations in groundwater under dairy operations by reducing nitrate to N{sub 2} gas, at sites where biogeochemical conditions are favorable. We present results from field studies at central California dairies that document the occurrence of saturated-zone denitrification in shallow groundwater using biomolecular indicators, stable isotope compositions of nitrate, and measurements of dissolved excess N{sub 2} gas. Excess N{sub 2} concentrations provide a measure of the extent to which nitrate in groundwater has been partially or completely denitrified. Abundant excess N{sub 2} and young {sup 3}H/{sup 3}He apparent groundwater ages indicate high denitrification rates near manure lagoons where multiple lines of evidence indicate seepage of lagoon water into the groundwater system. Natural tracers of lagoon water include high chloride and dissolved organic carbon concentrations, distinctive trace organic compounds, and high groundwater {delta}{sup 18}O values (relative to other recharge sources). Proximal to the lagoons, NH{sub 4}{sup +} may be present in groundwater, but is strongly adsorbed on to sediment particles. Bubble formation in the lagoons causes the exsolution of other gases (N{sub 2}, Ar, Ne, He, etc.), which partition into the gas phase and strip the lagoon water of its dissolved gas load, providing a unique tracer of lagoon seepage in groundwater.
Date: February 27, 2006
Creator: Singleton, M J; Esser, B K; Moran, J E; McNab, W W & Beller, H R
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Dissolved gas and isotopic tracers of denitrification

Description: We present results from field studies in California (USA) where tritium-helium age dating is used in conjunction with major gases (N{sub 2}, O{sub 2}, CH{sub 4}, CO{sub 2}), noble gases (He, Ne, Ar, Kr, Xe), and stable isotopes ({sup 15}N/{sup 14}N, {sup 18}O/{sup 16}O) in order to document nitrate loading and denitrification associated with confined animal agricultural operations and septic systems. Preliminary results show that in-field extraction of the full suite of dissolved gases will be possible using a new Gas Extraction System under development to augment the current Noble Gas Mass Spectrometry and Membrane Inlet Mass Spectrometry techniques. Ascribing observed groundwater nitrate levels to specific current and past land use practices is often complicated by uncertainty in groundwater age and the degree and locus of dentrification. Groundwater age dating at dairy field sites using the {sup 3}H-{sup 3}He method indicates that the highest nitrate concentrations (150-260 mg/L-NO3) occur in waters with apparent ages of <5 yrs, whereas older waters contain excess N{sub 2} from saturated zone denitrification [1]. At a residential septic system site in Livermore, CA, waters with young apparent ages (<1 yr) proximal to leach line drainage have lower nitrate concentrations and elevated nitrate {delta}{sup 15}N and {delta}{sup 18}O values consistent with denitrification, but little evidence for excess N{sub 2}, indicating that denitrification is occurring in the unsaturated zone. Degassing of groundwater can complicate efforts to calculate travel times [2] and to quantify denitrification. Degassed groundwater underlying dairy operations is formed by two distinct mechanisms: (1) recharge of manure lagoon water affected by biogenic gas ebullition [3] and (2) saturated zone denitrification producing N{sub 2} gas above solubility in groundwater. Gas loss due to both mechanisms is evident in the concentrations of noble gases and major gases in dairy groundwater samples.
Date: February 28, 2008
Creator: Singleton, M J; Moran, J E; Esser, B K; McNab, W W; Carle, S F & Cey, B D
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department