Hydrogeochemical characterization of an evaporite karst area affected by sinkholes (Ebro Valley, NE Spain)

Authors

  • F. GUTIÉRREZ Earth Sciences Department, University of Zaragoza. C/Pedro Cerbuna, 12, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain.
  • J.P. GALVE Earth Sciences Department, University of Zaragoza. C/Pedro Cerbuna, 12, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain.
  • L.F. AUQUÉ Earth Sciences Department, University of Zaragoza. C/Pedro Cerbuna, 12, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain.
  • D. CARBONEL Earth Sciences Department, University of Zaragoza. C/Pedro Cerbuna, 12, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain.
  • M.J. GIMENO Earth Sciences Department, University of Zaragoza. C/Pedro Cerbuna, 12, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain.
  • J.B. GÓMEZ Earth Sciences Department, University of Zaragoza. C/Pedro Cerbuna, 12, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain.
  • M.P. ASTA Instituto Andaluz de Ciencias de la Tierra (IACT) (CSIC-UGR) Av. de las Palmeras, 4; 18100 Armilla, Granada, Spain
  • Y. YECHIELI Geological Survey of Israel, Jerusalem 95501, and Department of Environmental Hydrology & Microbiology, Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, Blaustein Institutes for Desert Studies, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer, Israel

Keywords:

Salt karst. Alluvial aquifer. Geochemical modeling. Hydrochemistry.

Abstract

The main processes controlling the hydrochemistry of an alluvium-covered evaporite karst area with high sinkhole risk (Ebro Valley, NE Spain) are examined by means of multivariate analyses (Principal Component Analysis and Hierarchical Cluster Analysis), ion correlations and geochemical speciation-solubility calculations. The hydrogeochemistry of the studied system seems to be governed by the interaction between the groundwater from the salt-bearing evaporitic karst aquifer and from the overlying Ebro River alluvial aquifer. The observed hydrochemical features in the alluvial-karst aquifer system are mainly determined by the relative contribution of gypsum/anhydrite and halite dissolution, showing a wide spectrum from relatively fresh recharge waters (mainly irrigation waters) to highly evolved groundwater from the evaporitic aquifer. The variability of these contributions is especially evident at sinkhole ponds which, in some cases, seem to be associated with discharge areas of the karst aquifer in the valley bottom alluvium. Calculated saturation indexes suggest that, in contrast to gypsum, the amounts of halite in the sampled portions of evaporitic aquifer are not large enough to attain equilibrium, which is consistent with the predominance of gypsum/anhydrite reported for these materials. Furthermore, the observed Na:Cl and Ca:SO4 correlations and stoichiometries suggest that other possible processes, such as glauberite dissolution or Na/Ca-exchange, generally play a minor role (compared to halite and gypsum dissolution) in this system. Another important process in the system is the dissolution of carbonate minerals (dolomite and, possibly, calcite) fostered by the input of CO2(g), which is probably produced by pedogenic processes. Dolomite dissolution seems to be particularly relevant in the evaporitic materials probably due to dedolomitisation triggered by gypsum/anhydrite dissolution.

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