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Abstract:

The character and sequence of reaction products formed within evaporative groundwater-dominated lakes are controlled by source water chemistry, intensity of evaporation, residence time of lake water, and hydraulic flux ratio between groundwater inflow to the lake and lake water outflow to groundwater. Conventional hydrologic data (aqueous chemical concentrations, stage fluctuations, in-situ or other estimates of evaporation, aquifer characteristics) may be employed to calculate mass budgets for fluid and solutes (both conservative and reactive) in lake systems; by this approach, details of saline lake geochemical reactions may be resolved, supplementing inferences based on calculations of mineral equilibria. For lakes of known age, comparison of calculated mineral precipitation fluxes, based on aqueous chemistry, to sediment volume estimates allows projection of brine out-seepage and rates of eolian salt erosion, slow processes by which chemical mass is removed from storage. In an example case from the Clear Lake outwash aquifer in eastern Montana, mass budgets for two alkaline lakes in series—one a carbonate-producing marl-tufa lake, the other a sodium-sulfate-producing playa—suggest a major component (about 80 percent) of solute inflow to the playa basin is lost to brine outflow and wind erosion.

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