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Ba/Sr, Ca/Sr and87Sr/86Sr ratios in soil water and groundwater: implications for relative contributions to stream water discharge

Applied Geochemistry
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0883-2927(99)00054-2


Abstract Barium/Sr and Ca/Sr ratios have been used to model the relative importance of different sources of stream water. Major and trace element concentrations together with 87Sr/ 86Sr ratios were measured in precipitation, soil water, groundwater and stream water in a small (9.4 km 2) catchment in northern Sweden. The study catchment is drained by a first order stream and mainly covered with podzolized Quaternary till of granitic composition. It is underlain by a 1.8 Ga granite. A model with mixing equations used in an iterative mode was developed in order to separate the stream water into 3 subsurface components: soil water, shallow groundwater, and deep groundwater. Contributions from precipitation are thus not included in the model. This source may be significant for the stream water generation, but it does not interfere with the calculations of the relative contributions from the subsurface components. The results show that the deep groundwater constitutes between 5 and 20% of the subsurface water discharge into the stream water. The highest values of the deep groundwater fraction occur during base flow. Soil water dominates during snowmelt seasons, whereas during base flow it is the least important fraction. Soil water accounts for 10–100% of the subsurface water discharge into the stream water. Shallow groundwater accounts for up to 80% of the subsurface water discharge with the lowest values at peak discharge during snowmelt seasons and the highest values during base flow. The validity of the model was tested by comparing the measured 87Sr/ 86Sr ratios in the stream water with the 87Sr/ 86Sr ratios predicted by the model. There was a systematic difference between the measured and modelled 87Sr/ 86Sr ratios which suggests that the fraction of soil water is overestimated by the model, especially during spring flood. As a consequence of this overestimation of soil water the amount of shallow groundwater is probably underestimated during this period. However, it is concluded that the differences between measured and predicted values are relatively small, and that element ratios are potentially effective tracers for different subsurface water flowpaths in catchments.

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