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Integrating petrography, mineralogy and hydrochemistry to constrain the influence and distribution of groundwater contributions to baseflow in poorly productive aquifers: Insights from Gortinlieve catchment, Co. Donegal, NW Ireland

Authors
Journal
The Science of The Total Environment
0048-9697
Publisher
Elsevier
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.08.105
Keywords
  • Poorly Productive Bedrock Aquifers
  • Fracture Porosity
  • Weathering
  • Clay
  • Groundwater
  • Baseflow
Disciplines
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science
  • Physics

Abstract

Abstract Identifying groundwater contributions to baseflow forms an essential part of surface water body characterisation. The Gortinlieve catchment (5km2) comprises a headwater stream network of the Carrigans River, itself a tributary of the River Foyle, NW Ireland. The bedrock comprises poorly productive metasediments that are characterised by fracture porosity. We present the findings of a multi-disciplinary study that integrates new hydrochemical and mineralogical investigations with existing hydraulic, geophysical and structural data to identify the scales of groundwater flow and the nature of groundwater/bedrock interaction (chemical denudation). At the catchment scale, the development of deep weathering profiles is controlled by NE-SW regional scale fracture zones associated with mountain building during the Grampian orogeny. In-situ chemical denudation of mineral phases is controlled by micro- to meso-scale fractures related to Alpine compression during Palaeocene to Oligocene times. The alteration of primary muscovite, chlorite (clinochlore) and albite along the surfaces of these small-scale fractures has resulted in the precipitation of illite, montmorillonite and illite-montmorillonite clay admixtures. The interconnected but discontinuous nature of these small-scale structures highlights the role of larger scale faults and fissures in the supply and transportation of weathering solutions to/from the sites of mineral weathering. The dissolution of primarily mineral phases releases the major ions Mg, Ca and HCO3 that are shown to subsequently form the chemical makeup of groundwaters. Borehole groundwater and stream baseflow hydrochemical data are used to constrain the depths of groundwater flow pathways influencing the chemistry of surface waters throughout the stream profile. The results show that it is predominantly the lower part of the catchment, which receives inputs from catchment/regional scale groundwater flow, that is found to contribute to the maintenance of annual baseflow levels. This study identifies the importance of deep groundwater in maintaining annual baseflow levels in poorly productive bedrock systems.

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