Measured concentrations of environmental tracers in spring discharge from a karst aquifer in the Shenandoah Valley, USA, were used to refine a numerical groundwater flow model. The karst aquifer is folded and faulted carbonate bedrock dominated by diffuse flow along fractures. The numerical model represented bedrock structure and discrete features (fault zones and springs). Concentrations of 3H, 3He, 4He, and CFC-113 in spring discharge were interpreted as binary dilutions of young (0–8 years) water and old (tracer-free) water. Simulated mixtures of groundwater are derived from young water flowing along shallow paths, with the addition of old water flowing along deeper paths through the model domain that discharge to springs along fault zones. The simulated median age of young water discharged from springs (5.7 years) is slightly older than the median age estimated from 3H/3He data (4.4 years). The numerical model predicted a fraction of old water in spring discharge (0.07) that was half that determined by the binary-dilution model using the 3H/3He apparent age and 3H and CFC-113 data (0.14). This difference suggests that faults and lineaments are more numerous or extensive than those mapped and included in the numerical model.
Additional publication details
Comparison of age distributions estimated from environmental tracers by using binary-dilution and numerical models of fractured and folded karst: Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and West Virginia, USA