As most large groundwater basins can contain ‘old’ groundwater where extraction exceeds groundwater recharge, knowledge of the past conditions and timing under which groundwater was recharged is needed to sustainably manage groundwater resources. Moreover, the isotopic composition of groundwater can be a useful indicator of rainfall isotope compositions and help to determine the drivers and impacts of rainfall and climate change. Applying isotopic tools to groundwater contained in regional aquifer systems can provide low-resolution information on recharge intensity, recharge source and past climatic conditions for the region.
Design and Methodology
A dataset containing groundwater ages (14CDIC) and stable isotopes of water (δ18O and δ2H) from two regional groundwater systems within the Perth Basin, the Leederville Formation and Yarragadee Formation, were compiled to create a low-resolution palaeo-archive of groundwater recharge.
Original data and results
The trends in stable isotopes of water over time in the regional groundwater data are consistent with groundwater flow line data supporting our hypothesis that groundwater stable isotopes are a proxy for palaeo-recharge.
A comparison between modern groundwater and rainfall water isotopes indicates that recharge is biased to months with high volume and/or intense rainfall from the westerly wind circulation and that this has been the case for the last 35 ka. Lower stable water isotope values are interpreted to represent recharge from higher volume and/or more intense rainfall from 35 ka through the Last Glacial Maximum period although potentially modulated by changes in recharge thresholds.
The groundwater isotope record is interpreted to be a low resolution archive of recharge driven by changes in the relative intensity of past rainfall and recharge thresholds. This long-term stable isotopic recharge record provides a greater understanding of groundwater palaeo-recharge, and the connection between recharge and climate in the past.