Brine springs discharging from Devonian carbonates of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin have distinct water chemistry from brines in laterally equivalent units deeper in the basin. Stable isotope data suggest that the brine springs originated as Pleistocene meltwater. These waters are interpreted to originate as an influx of subglacial meltwater related to a reversal of the basin-scale flow system, caused by the overriding ice sheet. Esker distribution shows a notable relationship between shield and sedimentary rocks. An integrated sedimentary basin/ice sheet model supports the interpretation that high permeability carbonate units acted as preferential subglacial drains that in turn affected esker development.
The fluid flow history of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin is characterized by back-and-forth movement through geological time in response to changing boundary conditions. Modern-day flow systems may not then be indicative of historic movement of economic fluids through the basin.