Dating of 'young' groundwaters using environmental tracers: advantages, applications, and research needs.

Brent Newman, Karsten Osenbrück, Werner Aeschbach-Hertig, D.K Solomon, Peter Cook, Kazimierz Rózanski, Rolf Kipfer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    68 Citations (Scopus)


    Many problems related to groundwater supply and quality, as well as groundwater-dependent ecosystems require some understanding of the timescales of flow and transport. For example, increased concern about the vulnerabilities of 'young'groundwaters (less than ~ 1000 years) to overexploitation, contamination, and land use/climate change effects are driving the need to understand flow and transport processes that occur over decadal, annual, or shorter timescales. Over the last few decades, a powerful suite of environmental tracers has emerged that can be used to interrogate a wide variety of young groundwater systems and provide information about groundwater ages/residence times appropriate to the timescales over which these systems respond. These tracer methods have distinct advantages over traditional approaches providing information about groundwater systems that would likely not be obtainable otherwise. The objective of this paper is to discuss how environmental tracers are used to characterise young groundwater systems so that more researchers, water managers, and policy-makers are aware of the value of environmental tracer approaches and can apply them in appropriate ways. We also discuss areas where additional research is required to improve ease of use and extend quantitative interpretations of tracer results.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)259-278
    Number of pages20
    JournalIsotopes in Environmental and Health Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    • Environmental tracers
    • Groundwater age
    • Groundwater dating
    • Isotope measurements
    • Isotope tracer techniques
    • Methods and equipment
    • Residence time


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