Mullinger, Neil J. and Pates, Jackie M. and Binley, Andrew M. and Crook, N. P. (2009) Controls on the spatial and temporal variability of Rn-222 in riparian groundwater in a lowland Chalk catchment. Journal of Hydrology, 376 (1-2). pp. 58-69.
Radon is a powerful tracer of stream-aquifer interactions. However, it is important to consider the source and behaviour of radon in groundwater when interpreting observations of river radon in relation to groundwater discharge. Here we characterise the variability in groundwater radon concentrations in the riparian zone of a Chalk catchment. Groundwater 222Rn (radon) concentrations were determined in riparian zone boreholes at two sites in the Lambourn catchment, Berkshire, UK, over a two year period. In addition, borehole core material was analysed for 226Ra (radium) and to determine radon emanation. Radon and radium concentrations and radon emanation were found to change with depth and temporal variations in groundwater radon concentrations were found at different scales. The abundance of radium and emanation of radon increased nearer the surface leading to greater groundwater radon concentrations. It is shown that seasonal changes in water table elevation can to lead to variable radon concentrations in groundwater as zones of radon production become hydraulically active. Groundwater radon concentrations in shallow piezometers were found to respond to both seasonal changes in the water table and individual rainfall events. Riparian sources of radon can be variable and are therefore potentially influential in the radon signals observed in rivers and should be properly characterised when interpreting river radon inputs.
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