Abstract

Preferential flow paths are expected in many groundwater systems and must be located because they can greatly affect contaminant transport. The fundamental characteristics of radiogenic isotope ratios in chemically evolving waters make them highly effective as preferential flow path indicators. These ratios tend to be more easily interpreted than solute-concentration data because their response to water-rock interaction is less complex. We demonstrate this approach with groundwater 87Sr/86Sr ratios in the Snake River Plain aquifer within and near the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. These data reveal slow-flow zones as lower 87Sr/86Sr areas created by prolonged interaction with the host basalts and a relatively fast flowing zone as a high 87Sr/86Sr area.

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