The occurrence of saline waters in the Baltic Shield in Sweden is consistent with ongoing but incomplete Holocene flushing and depends on the geometry and connectivity of conductive structures at both regional and local scales, and on the surface topography. Numerical simulation of regional variable-density fluid flow during Holocene land-rise and coastal regression shows that the existence of any old saline water, whether derived from submarine recharge in regions below Sweden's highest postglacial coastline or geochemical processes in the crystalline rock, is an indication either of slow fluid movements through the bedrock over long times, or of long travel distances through fracture systems before arriving at measurement points. During the land-rise period, regional flow is not affected by the variable density of fluids in the upper few kilometers of the shield, and the topography of the water table is the only driving force. The spatial distribution of meteoric flushing water and pre-Holocene waters may be complex, with the possibility of relatively fresh water in fracture zones below salty units even at depths of a few kilometers. The domination of the topographic driving force implies that deep saline water is not necessarily stagnant, and significant flow may be expected to occur in well-connected horizons even at depth. Local topography variation and fracture zone location combine to create a complex flow field in which local topographic driving forces extend to considerable depth in some areas, whereas regional topographic forces predominate in others. Thus, a pattern may be difficult to discern in measurements of the regional salinity distribution, although it is clear that the coastal region is the major zone of discharge for deeper pre-Holocene fluids. During the land-rise period, the regional flow field equilibrates with changing climatic conditions and coastal positions, while the distribution of flushing water and older water lags and will perpetually change between successive glaciations. These characteristics have direct implications for the safety of nuclear water repositories located at depth in Baltic Shield rocks.
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Regional flow in the Baltic Shield during Holocene coastal regression