Using environmental tracers to assess the extent of river-groundwater interaction in a quarried area of the English Chalk

W Darling, D Gooddy, J Riches, Ilka Wallis

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    23 Citations (Scopus)


    The Swanscombe area of Kent, SE England represents a typical example of a heavily quarried Chalk area currently undergoing re-development. Because the Chalk is also an important aquifer, a good understanding of groundwater movement is required if environmental impacts are to be minimised and the water resource maximised. In particular, the nature of the relationship between the River Darent and groundwater in the Swanscombe Chalk Block requires better characterisation. Here, 'environmental tracers' in the form of ambient concentrations of stable isotopes, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and tritium (3H) are used to investigate this and other aspects of groundwater movement in the vicinity of the quarries. Stable isotopic contrasts indicate little evidence for widespread river infiltration to the regional Chalk aquifer, although stable isotope and 3H data suggest that 20-35% of the abstraction by river-valley public water supply boreholes may be derived from the river. The CFCs, while present at above-modern concentrations in almost all groundwaters, can be used as tracers, indicating basically S-N flowpaths in the area south of the quarries, though sub-karstic conduits associated with areas of Palaeogene cover add a level of uncertainty at the local scale. Simple piston flow residence times based on SF6 range from 1 to 17 a, but the data are probably better interpreted in terms of mixing between varying amounts of modern recharge derived from the south and deeper stored groundwater. The information gained from environmental tracers can therefore contribute to effective resource management.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)923-932
    Number of pages10
    JournalApplied Geochemistry
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


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