Tracing and quantifying groundwater inflow into lakes using a simple method for radon-222 analysis
Abstract. Due to its high activities in groundwater, the radionuclide 222Rn is a sensitive natural tracer to detect and quantify groundwater inflow into lakes, provided the comparatively low activities in the lakes can be measured accurately. Here we present a simple method for radon measurements in the low-level range down to 3 Bq m−3, appropriate for groundwater-influenced lakes, together with a concept to derive inflow rates from the radon budget in lakes. The analytical method is based on a commercially available radon detector and combines the advantages of established procedures with regard to efficient sampling and sensitive analysis. Large volume (12 l) water samples are taken in the field and analyzed in the laboratory by equilibration with a closed air loop and alpha spectrometry of radon in the gas phase. After successful laboratory tests, the method has been applied to a small dredging lake without surface in- or outflow in order to estimate the groundwater contribution to the hydrological budget. The inflow rate calculated from a 222Rn balance for the lake is around 530 m³ per day, which is comparable to the results of previous studies. In addition to the inflow rate, the vertical and horizontal radon distribution in the lake provides information on the spatial distribution of groundwater inflow to the lake. The simple measurement and sampling technique encourages further use of radon to examine groundwater-lake water interaction.