Characterising the distribution of near-shore submarine groundwater discharge along a coastline using Rn-222 and electrical conductivity

Michelle Short, Sebastien Lamontagne, Peter Cook, Roger Cranswick

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    Abstract

    The spatial and temporal distribution of near-shore fresh submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) was characterised from the coastal aquifers of the Willunga Basin, South Australia, an extensive aquifer system that supports an important viticultural region. Measurements of electrical conductivity (EC) and 222Rn (radon) activity were collected at 19 sites along the coastline during the Southern Hemisphere spring (2011) and summer (2013). At each site, samples were collected from the surf zone as well asporewater from beach sediment in the intertidal zone. Surf-zone radon activity ranged from <5 to 70mBq L-1, and intertidal porewater radon ranged over two orders of magnitude (220-36 940 mBq L-1) along the Willunga Basin coastline during both surveys. Overall, surf-zone and porewater EC was lower in the spring 2011 survey than in the summer 2013 survey. Porewater EC was similar to that of coastal water at most sites along the coastline, except at three sites where porewater EC was found to be lower than coastal water during both surveys, and three sites where evaporated seawater was observed in the summer survey. Based on the patterns in radon and EC along the coastline, two sites of localised fresh SGD were identified, in addition to a groundwater spring that is known to discharge to the coast. The results indicate that near-shore fresh SGD occurs as localised seeps rather than diffuse seepage along the entire coastline. The apparent absence of groundwater discharge at most locations is also consistent with current evidence suggesting that extensive groundwater pumping within the basin has resulted in seawater intrusion across much of the coastline. These observations also suggest that previous studies are likely to have over-estimated SGD rates from the Willunga Basin because they assumed that SGD occurred along the entire coastline.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)319-331
    Number of pages13
    JournalAustralian Journal of Earth Sciences
    Volume61
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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