Estimating groundwater recharge in fractured rock from environmental 3H and 36Cl, Clare Valley, South Australia

P. G. Cook, N. I. Robinson

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Vertical profiles of 3H and 36Cl concentrations are obtained from piezometer nests installed in fractured metasedimentary aquifers in the Clare Valley, South Australia. Because 3H is lost during evapotranspiration with negligible fractionation, while 36Cl is retained within the soil, comparison of 3H and 36Cl concentrations allows estimation of the aquifer recharge rate. An analytical solution for the transport of 3H and 36Cl through planar, parallel fractures is used to investigate the effect of variations in matrix porosity, tortuosity, fracture aperture, fracture spacing and aquifer recharge rate on tracer profiles and then to reproduce observed profiles within piezometer nests. While the measured distributions of these tracers are not able to constrain most model parameters, they are able to tightly constrain the aquifer recharge rate. The broad nature of the 36Cl and 3H peaks measured at our sites is simulated using a constant fracture spacing, lognormal distributions of fracture apertures, and mean recharge rates of 60-75 mm yr-1.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmental tracers
  • Fractured rocks
  • Groundwater
  • Isotopes
  • Recharge


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