Use of Stable Isotopes, Tritium, Soluble Salts, and Redox-Sensitive Elements to Distinguish Ground Water from Irrigation Water in the Salton Sea Basin

by Roy A. Schroeder, U.S. Geological Survey, San Diego, United States,
James G. Setmire, U.S. Geological Survey, San Diego, United States,
Jill N. Densmore, U.S. Geological Survey, San Diego, United States,

Abstract: Evaporative concentration of irrigation water diverted from the Colorado River to the Salton Sea basin for several decades has produced an overlying system (that includes drainwater and surface waters) whose composition is highly variable and differs from that of the shallow regional ground water beneath it. The role of hydrologic and geochemical processes in causing these differences (and the variability) is inferred from analyses of selected isotopes (3H, D, 18O, 15N, 34S) and elements (As, B, Br, Cl, Fe, N, Se). Selected element-to-Cl ratios establish the relative importance and location of the various processes. Isotopes of H O are used in estimating the relative contribution of leakage from an unlined canal and regional ground water to a nearby spring.

Subject Headings: Salt water | Groundwater | Isotopes | Irrigation water | Seas and oceans | Solubility | Basins | Water resources | Hydrology | Drainage systems | Evaporation | Colorado River

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