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Methodology, results, and significance of an unsaturated-zone tracer test at an artificial-recharge facility, Tucson, Arizona

Water-Resources Investigations Report 89-4097

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Abstract

A tracer test conducted in 1987 at an artificial-recharge facility in Tucson, Arizona, indicates that solute movement through the poorly sorted stratified alluvial sediments in the unsaturated zone beneath a recharge basin takes place along preferential-flow paths. Movement of a tracer-laced pulse of reclaimed wastewater was monitored using pressure-vacuum lysimeters installed at depths that range from 11 to 45 ft below the bottom of the recharge basin. Tracer-breakthrough curves do not indicate a consistent relation between maximum tracer concentration and depth or between time of tracer breakthrough and depth. Apparent dispersion, as indicated by the slope of the rising leg of the tracer-breakthrough curve, shows no apparent relation with depth. In some cases, the tracer arrived earlier at deep sampling locations than at shallow ones. Velocity of solute flow ranged from 1.9 to 9.0 ft/day. Less interaction between recharge water and solid-phase materials in the unsaturated zone occurs under preferential-flow conditions than if flow occurred as a uniform wetting front. Flow of water through the unsaturated zone is concentrated into fingers or channels under preferential-flow conditions, and the renovating capability of soil is reduced because of the reduced surface area and reduced contact time in the biologically active part of the unsaturated profile. Chemical substances that normally would be decomposed by microbial activity or sorbed by sediment particles can move through the unsaturated zone and cause groundwater contamination under preferential-flow conditions. (USGS)

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Methodology, results, and significance of an unsaturated-zone tracer test at an artificial-recharge facility, Tucson, Arizona
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
89-4097
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1989
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey ; Books and Open-File Reports [distributor],
Description:
iv, 28 p. :ill. ;28 cm.