Springwater provenance and flowpath evaluation in Blue Lake, Bonneville basin, Utah

TitleSpringwater provenance and flowpath evaluation in Blue Lake, Bonneville basin, Utah
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsLerback, JChapin, Hynek, SA, Bowen, BB, Bradbury, CD, D. Solomon, K, Fernandez, DP
JournalChemical Geology
Date PublishedJan-12-2019
KeywordsBonneville basin, Geochemistry, groundwater, Isotope chemistry

Water in Utah and Nevada is important for agriculture, municipal use, solute transport, and ecosystem preservation. Large spring wetland systems occur on the playa margin of the Bonneville basin, including Blue Lake, 15 km south of the Bonneville Salt Flats on the Utah-Nevada state border. Large spring systems have historically been studied as water budgets don't apparently balance from direct mountain front recharge (Nelson and Mayo, 2014; Gardner and Heilweil, 2014; and others). Blue Lake is no exception; prior studies here have suggested discharge rates 0.04 - 0.05 km3/yr (Louderback and Rhode, 2009), greater than expected for modelled recharge in the surrounding mountain range (0.03 km3/yr). Three hypothesized recharge mechanisms for Blue Lake are tested: mountain-front recharge, interbasinal groundwater flow, and infiltration from historic Lake Bonneville. Remote sensing suggests that a conservative estimate of Blue Lake discharge constitutes 50-64% of modelled mountain-front recharge (Flint et al., 2011). Major ions, δ18O, δ2H, dissolved gases (14C, 3He, 4He, Ne, Ar, Kr, Xe) and trace elements (Sr and 87Sr/86Sr isotopes) comprehensively constrain recharge conditions, water-rock interactions, flowpaths, and groundwater provenance of this large spring system. 14C signatures suggest that Blue Lake discharge has a transit time between 5,600 and 12,200 years, older than that of Fish Springs. Noble gas concentrations in Blue Lake water suggest an elevated recharge temperature greater than 19°C and low salinity, indicating a deep water table and high geothermal gradient in the recharge area. 87Sr/86Sr ratios of playa-margin springs are elevated from that of mid-playa groundwaters, springwaters from the adjacent mountain range, and alluvial fill groundwater from the valley directly south of Blue Lake. Playa-margin spring Sr isotope values (0.713-0.714) are most similar to direct runoff from the Deep Creek Range granodiorite outcrop (>0.713). Interbasinal groundwater flow in combination with mountain-front recharge is best supported by chemical data rather than mountain-front recharge alone or the slow discharge of regional aquifers recharged by lacustrine infiltration from Lake Bonneville.