, Volume 70, Issue 1, pp 71-82,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 18 Nov 2012

Use of isotopic tracers to characterize the interaction of water components and nitrate contamination in the arid Rasafeh area (Syria)


Chemical and isotopic data in atmospheric precipitation, surface water, and groundwater in arid Rasafeh area, northeast Syria, are used to clarify the status of groundwater quality, the interaction of water components, groundwater dating, and vulnerability to anthropogenic contamination. Interpretation of chemical data with thermodynamic calculation reveals that the dissolution of evaporate mineral is the main factor of high salinity. The δ18O and δ2H relationships indicate that the groundwater is fed by mixing water from Euphrates River and precipitation and the isotope balance equation were used to estimate the contribution of the Euphrates River to the aquifers recharge. High tritium content, together with high 14C activity in the majority of groundwater samples, indicate shorter residence times and consequently potentially greater recharge. The presence of high nitrate concentration associated with high tritium concentration in both shallow and deep aquifer units indicates the presence of high permeability, so that groundwater is highly susceptible to anthropogenic contamination. Nitrate seems to derive exclusively from the application of N fertilizers. The high nitrate values are characteristic of the areas with intensive agricultural activity, indicating the importance of irrigated return flow on the groundwater.