The subsurface transfer of water from a mountain block to an adjacent basin (mountain block recharge (MBR)) is a commonly invoked mechanism of recharge to intermountain basins. However, MBR estimates are highly uncertain. We present an approach to characterize bulk fluid circulation in a mountain block and thus MBR that utilizes environmental tracers from the basin aquifer. Noble gas recharge temperatures, groundwater ages, and temperature data combined with heat and fluid flow modeling are used to identify clearly improbable flow regimes in the southeastern Salt Lake Valley, Utah, and adjacent Wasatch Mountains. The range of possible MBR rates is reduced by 70%. Derived MBR rates (5.5-12.6 ?? 104 m3 d-1) are on the same order of magnitude as previous large estimates, indicating that significant MBR to intermountain basins is plausible. However, derived rates are 50-100% of the lowest previous estimate, meaning total recharge is probably less than previously thought. Copyright 2005 by the American Geophysical Union.
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An integrated environmental tracer approach to characterizing groundwater circulation in a mountain block