Geochemistry and Provenance of Springs in a Baja California Sur Mountain Catchment

TitleGeochemistry and Provenance of Springs in a Baja California Sur Mountain Catchment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsLerback, JC, Bowen, BB, Humphrey, CE, Fernandez, DP, Bernau, JA, Macfarlan, SJ, Schniter, E, Garcia, JJ
Pagination295 - 308
Date PublishedJan-03-2022

Fractured rock aquifers cover much of Earth's surface and are important mountain sites for groundwater recharge but are poorly understood. To investigate groundwater systematics of a fractured-dominated aquifer in Baja California Sur, Mexico, we examined the spatial patterns of aquifer recharge and connectivity using the geochemistry of springs. We evaluate a range of geochemical data within the context of two endmember hypotheses describing spatial recharge patterns and fracture connectivity. Hypothesis 1 is that the aquifer system is segmented, and springs are fed by local recharge. Hypothesis 2 is that the aquifer system is well connected, with dominant recharge occurring in the higher elevations. The study site is a small <15 km2 catchment. Thirty-four distinct springs and two wells were identified in the study area, and 24 of these sites were sampled for geochemical analyses along an elevation gradient and canyon transect. These analyses included major ion composition, trace element and strontium isotopes, δ18 O and δ2 H isotopes, radiocarbon, and tritium. δ18 O and δ2 H isotopes suggest that the precipitation feeding the groundwater system has at least two distinct sources. Carbon isotopes showed a change along the canyon transect, suggesting that shorter flowpaths feed springs in the top of the transect, and longer flowpaths discharge near the bottom. Geochemical interpretations support a combination of the two proposed hypotheses. Understanding of the connectivity and provenance of these springs is significant as they are the primary source of water for the communities that inhabit this region and may be impacted by changes in recharge and use.