Groundwater age dating
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Note: You’ll see reference to cosmic rays a lot below.
Confinement of 3He was high because of the rapid vertical flow velocity (of the order of 1 m/yr), resulting in clear delineation of groundwater travel times based on the 3H/3He-dating technique.Understanding how old groundwater is may be one of the most, if not the most important aspect of protecting groundwater as a resource and preventing depletion of groundwater reserves from overpumping.For example, pumping an aquifer with a groundwater age of 10 years can be done semi-sustainably as any water extracted will take ~10 years to replace.The time it takes for the water to infiltrate through the soil layer is not included in the date which can add several months.Therefore, when I say groundwater is one year old, this means that it was likely rain from last year that has now reached the well, but it may be slightly older when you factor in the vadose zone travel time.Furthermore, knowing the age of groundwater throughout an aquifer will also allow a hydrogeologist to assess how quickly contamination will spread and if it can be contained.
There are other reasons that it is beneficial to know the age of groundwater and if you’re interested I refer you to some of the references below.
However, pumping water with an age of 100,000 years is exploiting a nearly non-renewable resource.
There may be lots of it, but the aquifer could take a long time to recover.
The demonstrated validity of the combined tracer- dating techniques to determine the age of water in the Kirkwood- Cohansey aquifer system indicates that groundwater flow models can be refined when apparent ages based on 3H/3He- and CFC-dating are used as calibration targets.
A new way of thinking about groundwater age is changing the field of groundwater age dating.
Groundwater age dating through the combination of transient tracer methods (chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and tritium/helium 3 (3H/3He)) and groundwater flow path analysis is useful for investigating groundwater travel times, flow patterns, and recharge rates, as demonstrated by this study of the homogeneous shallow, unconfined Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system in the southern New Jersey coastal plain.