Articles | Volume 19, issue 1
Research article
28 Jan 2015
Research article |  | 28 Jan 2015

Identifying the origin and geochemical evolution of groundwater using hydrochemistry and stable isotopes in the Subei Lake basin, Ordos energy base, Northwestern China

F. Liu, X. Song, L. Yang, Y. Zhang, D. Han, Y. Ma, and H. Bu

Abstract. A series of changes in groundwater systems caused by groundwater exploitation in energy base have been of great concern to hydrogeologists. The research aims to identify the origin and geochemical evolution of groundwater in the Subei Lake basin under the influence of human activities. Water samples were collected, and major ions and stable isotopes (δ18O, δD) were analyzed. In terms of hydrogeological conditions and the analytical results of hydrochemical data, groundwater can be classified into three types: the Quaternary groundwater, the shallow Cretaceous groundwater and the deep Cretaceous groundwater. Piper diagram and correlation analysis were used to reveal the hydrochemical characteristics of water resources. The dominant water type of the lake water was Cl-Na type, which was in accordance with hydrochemical characteristics of inland salt lakes; the predominant hydrochemical types for groundwater were HCO3–Ca, HCO3–Na and mixed HCO3–Ca–Na–Mg types. The groundwater chemistry is mainly controlled by dissolution/precipitation of anhydrite, gypsum, halite and calcite. The dedolomitization and cation exchange are also important factors. Rock weathering is confirmed to play a leading role in the mechanisms responsible for the chemical composition of groundwater. The stable isotopic values of oxygen and hydrogen in groundwater are close to the local meteoric water line, indicating that groundwater is of modern local meteoric origin. Unlike significant differences in isotopic values between shallow groundwater and deep groundwater in the Habor Lake basin, shallow Cretaceous groundwater and deep Cretaceous groundwater have similar isotopic characteristics in the Subei Lake basin. Due to the evaporation effect and dry climatic conditions, heavy isotopes are more enriched in lake water than in groundwater. The low slope of the regression line of δ18O and δD in lake water could be ascribed to a combination of mixing and evaporation under conditions of low humidity. Comparison of the regression line for δ18O and δD showed that lake water in the Subei Lake basin contains more heavily isotopic composition than that in the Habor Lake basin, indicating that lake water in the discharge area has undergone stronger evaporation than lake water in the recharge area. Hydrochemical and isotopic information of utmost importance has been provided to decision makers by the present study so that a sustainable groundwater management strategy can be designed for the Ordos energy base.

Short summary
Due to intensive groundwater exploitation in energy base, significant changes in groundwater system will take place. This research identified the origin and geochemical evolution of groundwater in the Subei Lake basin under the influence of human activity, enhancing the knowledge of lake basins in groundwater discharge area and providing valuable groundwater information for decision makers to formulate sustainable groundwater management strategies for other similar lake basins in arid regions.