Articles | Volume 21, issue 11
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 5875–5889, 2017
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 5875–5889, 2017

Research article 27 Nov 2017

Research article | 27 Nov 2017

Impacts of changes in groundwater recharge on the isotopic composition and geochemistry of seasonally ice-covered lakes: insights for sustainable management

Marie Arnoux1,2, Florent Barbecot1, Elisabeth Gibert-Brunet2, John Gibson3, and Aurélie Noret2 Marie Arnoux et al.
  • 1GEOTOP, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Québec, H3C 3P8, Canada
  • 2GEOPS, UMR 8148, CRNS-Université Paris Saclay/Paris-Sud, Orsay, France
  • 3Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, 3-4476 Markham Street, Victoria, BC V8Z 7X8, Canada

Abstract. Lakes are under increasing pressure due to widespread anthropogenic impacts related to rapid development and population growth. Accordingly, many lakes are currently undergoing a systematic decline in water quality. Recent studies have highlighted that global warming and the subsequent changes in water use may further exacerbate eutrophication in lakes. Lake evolution depends strongly on hydrologic balance, and therefore on groundwater connectivity. Groundwater also influences the sensitivity of lacustrine ecosystems to climate and environmental changes, and governs their resilience. Improved characterization of groundwater exchange with lakes is needed today for lake preservation, lake restoration, and sustainable management of lake water quality into the future. In this context, the aim of the present paper is to determine if the future evolution of the climate, the population, and the recharge could modify the geochemistry of lakes (mainly isotopic signature and quality via phosphorous load) and if the isotopic monitoring of lakes could be an efficient tool to highlight the variability of the water budget and quality.

Small groundwater-connected lakes were chosen to simulate changes in water balance and water quality expected under future climate change scenarios, namely representative concentration pathways (RCPs) 4.5 and 8.5. Contemporary baseline conditions, including isotope mass balance and geochemical characteristics, were determined through an intensive field-based research program prior to the simulations. Results highlight that future lake geochemistry and isotopic composition trends will depend on four main parameters: location (and therefore climate conditions), lake catchment size (which impacts the intensity of the flux change), lake volume (which impacts the range of variation), and lake G index (i.e., the percentage of groundwater that makes up total lake inflows), the latter being the dominant control on water balance conditions, as revealed by the sensitivity of lake isotopic composition. Based on these model simulations, stable isotopes appear to be especially useful for detecting changes in recharge to lakes with a G index of between 50 and 80 %, but response is non-linear. Simulated monthly trends reveal that evolution of annual lake isotopic composition can be dampened by opposing monthly recharge fluctuations. It is also shown that changes in water quality in groundwater-connected lakes depend significantly on lake location and on the intensity of recharge change.

Short summary
Future climate and recharge change scenarios are tested on lake hydrological balances to simulate changes in lake isotopic signature and water quality. Results highlight that lake water evolution depends mainly on the location and the intensity of recharge changes. Lake water isotopic composition appears to be particularly sensitive to future changes in recharge for lakes with between 50 % and 80 % of groundwater in their total inflows.