Main content area

Assessment of groundwater–surface water interaction using long-term hydrochemical data and isotope hydrology: Headwaters of the Condamine River, Southeast Queensland, Australia

Martinez, Jorge L., Raiber, Matthias, Cox, Malcolm E.
The Science of the total environment 2015 v.536 pp. 499-516
alkalinity, aquifers, base flow, climate, evaporation, geomorphology, groundwater, hydrologic models, ions, isotopes, multivariate analysis, radionuclides, radon, rain, rivers, salinity, streams, surface water, watersheds, Queensland
A spatial analysis of hydrochemical data of groundwater and surface water was undertaken to identify groundwater-surface water connectivity in the headwaters of the Condamine River catchment, Southeast Queensland, Australia. An assessment of long-term hydrochemical and water level data supplemented by stable- and radioisotope measurements following a prolonged dry period dominated by baseflow, helped in determining patterns of interaction in different tributaries of the upper Condamine catchment. A conceptual hydrological model representing the major hydrochemical processes and their implications for stream-aquifer connectivity was developed and tested using multiple lines of evidence.The results of a multivariate statistical analysis highlight that there are two main regions with distinct hydrochemical facies (salinity, alkalinity, and predominant ions) in surface water. Geomorphology, geology, anthropogenic and climate influence were identified as the most relevant controlling factors of the spatial variability in water quality.Stable isotope data confirmed a clear evaporation trend in almost all surface water samples during baseflow conditions. Two water types can be identified and separated by the degree of evaporation and the proximity of one group to the local meteoric water line. The results confirm the discharge of groundwater from aquifers recharged by rainfall and located upstream of the surface water sampling sites.Overall, 222Rn data show a trend of increased activity in surface water towards the upstream portions of these tributaries, validating the use of this tracer to estimate groundwater input to the local creeks. The proportion of groundwater contribution to stream flow calculated by 222Rn and chloride mass balance is in agreement, and ranges between 20–70% in tributaries in the northern areas, and between 8–50% in the upper reaches of the main river channel.This study shows the efficacy of an integrated approach combining long-term hydrochemical data interpreted via multivariate statistics, hydraulic water level data and stable and radiogenic isotope hydrology for the determination of groundwater–surface interactions in headwater catchments.