The role of diagenisis in the hydrogeological stratification of carbonate aquifers: an example from the chalk at Fair Cross, Berkshire, UK
- Hydrogeology Group, British Geological Survey, Maclean Building, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK.
Abstract. Carbonate rocks form important aquifers in many parts of the world and in north-west Europe the Chalk is a primary source of potable water. When flushed with relatively fresh groundwaters, the Chalk may undergo significant diagenetic alteration at relatively shallow depths resulting in a physically and hydrogeochemically stratified aquifer. Diagenetic affects may have important implications for the effective exploitable thickness of the Chalk aquifer and for water quality. In order to assess the affects of diagenesis on the properties of carbonate aquifers, matrix porosity, permeability, pore water and rock chemistry profiles have been analysed for a 300 m deep borehole through the Chalk at the western end of the London Basin. An abrupt change in the matrix porosity profile at 155 mbgl indicates a change in dominant mode of historic diagenesis from mechanical compaction above 155 mbgl to predominantly pressure solution compaction below 155 mbgl. Pore water and rock chemistry profiles also change abruptly across this depth interval, suggesting that the present day hydrogeology is controlled by historic diagenetic trends. Below 155 mbgl, pore waters are relatively saline and there is no evidence for groundwater flow; above 155 mbgl pore waters are relatively fresh and geochemical evidence for incon-gruent carbonate dissolution indicates contemporary groundwater circulation. Possible physical and chemical evolution paths for the Chalk at Fair Cross are discussed. The results provide a hydrogeological context for other studies of the long-term response of carbonate aquifers to base-line changes in sea-level and pore water chemistry and also enable studies with relatively short time-frames or of localized phenomena to be placed in the broader context of the evolution of carbonate aquifers.