Determining groundwater ages in heterogeneous environments.

Groundwater management requires an understanding of the timeframes over which groundwater is replenished or susceptible to threats.  For this reason, the age of groundwater is important as it relates directly to these timeframes. Previous work has demonstrated that groundwater age becomes difficult to quantify outside of ideal environments. Current methods need to be adapted to these real world environments and new methods need to be proposed.

This project aims to determine how well current methods work in complex environments where flow and transport are highly spatially variable. This is achieved through the use of numerical models, which allow a wide range of scenarios to be tested and for comparisons to be made to known quantities.  Additionally, we propose methods for correcting current methods, and propose new methods for estimating ages in specific environments. 

Our work is continuing;  so far, we have shown how ages measured using environmental tracers may be corrected for in complex environments, how models of the spatial variability of the subsurface impact estimates of groundwater ages, and have developed a novel technique for estimating groundwater age distributions using environmental tracers. 

Research Program

Surface Water – Groundwater Interactions

Principle Researcher

Mr James McCallum

Collaborators or Co-authors

Professor Peter Cook
Professor Craig Simmons