Geochemical controls on dissolved sodium in basalt aquifers of the Columbia Plateau, Washington

Water-Resources Investigations Report 84-4304

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Miocene basaltic aquifers of the Columbia Plateau are the principal source of water for agricultural, domestic, and municipal use in Washington State. Irrigation with groundwaters with relatively high sodium concentrations has been cause for concern in recent years, because of the tendency of such waters to reduce soil permeability. Chemical reactions involving groundwater and the basalts are the primary mechanisms responsible for the input of sodium to groundwater in the plateau. This conclusion is supported by the sequence of secondary alteration products found and by progressive changes in groundwater chemistry with depth and position along regional flow paths. Upgradient and shallow groundwaters have low sodium concentrations and sodium-adsorption ratios (SAR's), and are predominantly calcium sodium bicarbonate waters. Groundwaters from deeper and downgradient locations have higher sodium concentrations and SAR 's and are predominantly sodium bicarbonate water. Volcanic glass and cryptocrystalline matrix are the major sources of groundwater sodium, and are dissolved by a combination of silicate hydrolysis and dissolution by carbonic acid. Magnesium, iron, and calcium are removed from solution by the formation of an iron magnesium smectite, calcite , and amorphous iron oxyhydroxide. The addition of sodium, silicon, and potassium by dissolution of basalt exceeds their removal by the precipitation of secondary minerals, and their concentrations increase in the initial stages of this process. In later stages, these continued increases produce a water saturated with clinoptilolite and silica phases, and these begin to precipitate. While the timing of these processes is unclear, the mineralogy of secondary alteration and estimated cooling rates of the basalt flows suggest that observed alteration products formed primarily at low temperature, under conditions similar to those existing at the present time. (USGS)

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Geochemical controls on dissolved sodium in basalt aquifers of the Columbia Plateau, Washington
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
v, 38 p. :ill., maps (one col.) ;28 cm.