Abstract

A detailed geochemical study of surface waters, spring waters, and groundwaters was undertaken to examine the geochemical evolution of groundwater on Saturna Island, British Columbia. The purpose of the study was to characterize the nature and occurrence of saline waters and to provide insight on chemical processes that lead to salinization in the fractured sedimentary bedrock aquifers of this small island. Major ion chemistry shows that groundwater is recharged locally but mixes with saline waters that occur at depth or near the coast. Simple mixing is complicated by cation exchange (between calcium-rich waters and sodium-rich exchange sites offered by mudstone beds) and results in a spatially variable hydrochemical composition that is dependent on the island topography and geological framework (structural, sedimentological, and glacial), in combination with groundwater use patterns. Sodium, present at exchange sites, is speculated to be a remnant of ocean water intrusion during the Pleistocene, when the island was submerged. As a result of its high mobility and conservative nature, chloride (and sulphate) has been flushed from the shallow bedrock during a process of natural desalinization but may remain trapped in the pores and fractures at depth. Modern salt-water intrusion, brought about by increased development on the island, is now competing with natural desalinization along the coast and has left many drinking-water supplies contaminated.

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