Assessment of groundwater discharges into West Neck Bay, New York, via natural tracers Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • A field experiment to compare methods of assessing submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) was held on Shelter Island, NY, in May 2002. We evaluated the use of radon, radium isotopes, and methane to assess SGD rates and dynamics from a glacial aquifer in the coastal zone. Fluxes of radon across the sediment-water interface were calculated from changes in measured surface water inventories following evaluation and correction for tidal effects, atmospheric evasion, and mixing with offshore waters. These fluxes were then converted to SGD rates using the measured radon concentration in the groundwater. We used the short-lived radium isotopes to calculate a horizontal mixing coefficient to assess radon loss by mixing between nearshore and offshore waters. We also made an independent calculation of SGD using the Ra-derived mixing coefficient and the long-lived 226Ra concentration gradient in the bay. Seepage rates were calculated to range between 0 and 34 cm.day-1 using the radon measurements and 15 cm.day-1 as indicated by the radium isotopes. The radiotracer results were consistent and comparable to SGD rates measured directly with vented benthic chambers (seepage meters) deployed during this experiment. These meters indicated rates between 2 and 200 cm.day-1 depending on their location. Both the calculated radon fluxes and rates measured directly by the automated seepage meters revealed a clear reproducible pattern of higher fluxes during low tides. Considering that the two techniques are completely independent, the agreement in the SGD dynamics is significant. Methane concentration in groundwater was very low (~30 nM) and not suitable as SGD tracer at this study site.

publication date

  • October 2006