Articles | Volume 14, issue 10
27 Oct 2010
 | 27 Oct 2010

An approach to identify urban groundwater recharge

E. Vázquez-Suñé, J. Carrera, I. Tubau, X. Sánchez-Vila, and A. Soler

Abstract. Evaluating the proportion in which waters from different origins are mixed in a given water sample is relevant for many hydrogeological problems, such as quantifying total recharge, assessing groundwater pollution risks, or managing water resources. Our work is motivated by urban hydrogeology, where waters with different chemical signature can be identified (losses from water supply and sewage networks, infiltration from surface runoff and other water bodies, lateral aquifers inflows, ...). The relative contribution of different sources to total recharge can be quantified by means of solute mass balances, but application is hindered by the large number of potential origins. Hence, the need to incorporate data from a large number of conservative species, the uncertainty in sources concentrations and measurement errors. We present a methodology to compute mixing ratios and end-members composition, which consists of (i) Identification of potential recharge sources, (ii) Selection of tracers, (iii) Characterization of the hydrochemical composition of potential recharge sources and mixed water samples, and (iv) Computation of mixing ratios and reevaluation of end-members. The analysis performed in a data set from samples of the Barcelona city aquifers suggests that the main contributors to total recharge are the water supply network losses (22%), the sewage network losses (30%), rainfall, concentrated in the non-urbanized areas (17%), from runoff infiltration (20%), and the Besòs River (11%). Regarding species, halogens (chloride, fluoride and bromide), sulfate, total nitrogen, and stable isotopes (18O, 2H, and 34S) behaved quite conservatively. Boron, residual alkalinity, EDTA and Zn did not. Yet, including these species in the computations did not affect significantly the proportion estimations.