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Title: Groundwater origin and recharge in the hyperarid Cordillera de la Costa, Atacama Desert, northern Chile.
Author: Herrera, Christian
Gamboa, Carolina
Custodio, Emilio
Jordan, Teresa
Godfrey, Linda V.
Jódar, Jorge
Luque Marín, José Antonio
Vargas, Jimmy
Sáez, Alberto
Keywords: Sedimentació
Atacama, Desert d' (Xile)
Hidrologia d'aigües subterrànies
Sedimentation and deposition
Atacama Desert (Chile)
Groundwater hydrology
Issue Date: 14-Dec-2017
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Abstract: The Cordillera de la Costa is located along the coastline of northern Chile, in the hyperarid Atacama Desert area. Chemical and isotopic analyses of several small coastal springs and groundwater reservoirs between 22.5°S and 25.5°S allow understanding groundwater origin, renewal time and the probable timing of recharge. The aquifers are mostly in old volcanic rocks and alluvial deposits in small intra-mountain basins. All spring waters are brackish, of the sodium chloride type due to intensive concentration of precipitation due aridity and for deep groundwater to additional water-rock interaction in slowly renewed groundwater and mixing with deep seated brines. The heavy δ18O and δ2H values in spring water are explained by recharge by the arrival of moist air masses from the Pacific Ocean and the originally lighter values in the deep wells can be associated to past recharge by air masses coming from the Atlantic Ocean. Current recharge is assumed almost nil but it was significant in past wetter-than-present periods, increasing groundwater reserves, which are not yet exhausted. To explain the observed chloride content and radiocarbon (14C) activity, a well-mixed (exponential) flow model has been considered for aquifer recharge. The average residence time of groundwater feeding the springs has been estimated between 1 and 2 hyr, up to 5 hyr and between 7 and 13 hyr for deep well water, assuming that current recharge is much less than during the previous wetter period. The recharge period feeding the coastal springs could have been produced 2 to 5 hyr BP, when the area was already inhabited, and recharge in the Michilla mine was produced during the 10 to 14.5 hyr BP CAPE (Central Andean Pluvial Event) pluvial events of the central Andes). Age uncertainty cannot be solved with only radiocarbon data. The approximate coincidence of turnover time with the past wet periods, as revealed by paleoclimate data, points to significant recharge during them.
Note: Versió postprint del document publicat a:
It is part of: Science of the Total Environment, 2017, vol. 624, p. 114-132
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ISSN: 0048-9697
Appears in Collections:Articles publicats en revistes (Dinàmica de la Terra i l'Oceà)

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