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Integrating major ion geochemistry, stable isotopes (18O, 2H) and radioactive isotopes (222Rn, 14C, 36Cl, 3H) to understand the interaction between catchment waters and an intermittent river
journal contributionposted on 2023-11-21, 04:34 authored by Z Zhou, I Cartwright, U Morgenstern, LK Fifield
Determining the locations and sources of baseflow and the transit times of water is important for understanding catchment behaviour and functioning. Major ion geochemistry, stable isotopes (18O and 2H), and radioisotopes (222Rn, 3H, 14C, and 36Cl) were used to investigate the sources and transit times of water in the upper catchment of the intermittent Avoca River in southeast Australia. 222Rn activities and Cl concentrations implied the presence of baseflow inputs and the distribution was mainly controlled by local topography. Fluctuation of Cl concentrations implied that low-salinity near-river water was an important component of baseflow. The 3H activities of laterally disconnected pool waters during the summer months were 1.64 to 5.11 TU. The higher of these values exceed those of average annual rainfall (2.8–3.2 TU), probably due to the input of later winter to spring rainfall. The stream water had 3H activities ranging from 2.21 to 2.40 TU in July and 2.39 to 2.77 TU in August, which yield mean transit times of 4.0 to 7.0 years and 1.4 to 4.8 years respectively. These 3H activities were significantly higher than those of regional groundwater (3H activities <0.1 TU), implying that the river is largely sustained by young near-river stores at all flow conditions. Regional groundwater had 14C activities of 34.0 to 98.1 pMC, which yield mean residence times of up to 12,900 years. R36Cl values of regional groundwater (50.9–61.9 × 10−15) were higher than those of modern rainfall, probably reflecting the R36Cl values of recharge. Similar R36Cl values of the pool and stream water (33.3–58.7 × 10−15) implied that some Cl is derived from the regional groundwater influx. As with other intermittent streams in southeast Australia, the upper Avoca River was mainly sustained by relatively small water stores, and it will be vulnerable to short-term changes in climate and land use.