The spatial distribution of groundwater age for different geohydrological situations in the Netherlands: Implications for groundwater quality monitoring at the regional scale
Nederlands Instituut voor Toegepaste Geowetenschappen TNO
The spatial distribution of groundwater age is a key factor determining the distribution of dissolved contaminants in the subsurface when contamination loadings have increased in time. The effects of surficial drainage and aquifer heterogeneity on the spatial distribution of groundwater age in unconsolidated aquifers in flat areas were investigated, and consequences were presented for the monitoring of contaminants from diffuse sources. First, the effects were assessed using model simulations. Second, the groundwater age distribution was evaluated in the two regional monitoring networks of Noord-Brabant and Drenthe using tritium measurements. Theoretically, a simple spatial distribution of groundwater age is present in homogeneous aquifers with natural groundwater recharge, characterized by a horizontal pattern of residence time isochrones and a gradual increase of groundwater age with depth. The model simulations show that the isochrone pattern becomes distorted in areas with a surficial drainage network, resulting in relatively old groundwater at shallow depth and larger spatial variation in groundwater age at a specific depth. This drainage effect on the spatial distribution of groundwater age is relatively large compared with effects of regional scale aquifer heterogeneity or spatially varying groundwater recharge. The effects of surficial drainage on the spatial distribution of groundwater age were confirmed by tritium measurements made in the regional monitoring networks of two provinces in the Netherlands. At about 24 m depth, the proportion of post-1950 groundwater in drained areas was significantly less and the spatial variation of groundwater age was larger than in recharge areas that lack a drainage network. The age of the groundwater appeared to be related to the drainage network density and the water table regime. A preliminary survey showed that contamination patterns in the two networks agree well with the proportion of post-1950 groundwater. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
To reference this document use:
Surficial drainage network
Journal of Hydrology, 299 (1-2), 84-106