Environmental Geology

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 541–557 | Cite as

Tracing sources of carbon in urban groundwater using δ13CTDIC ratios

  • J. Rueedi
  • A. A. Cronin
  • R. G. Taylor
  • B. L. Morris
Original Article


Total dissolved inorganic carbon (TDIC) and its stable isotope ratio δ13CTDIC are used to trace the evolution of the carbon system of groundwater in three UK Permo-Triassic sandstone aquifers. Samples were collected from multilevel piezometers, open boreholes and sewer sampling points in the British Midlands (Nottingham, Birmingham and Doncaster) to evaluate both local and regional variations in δ13CTDIC. δ13C samples of matrix and pore water have also been analysed in each aquifer to further constrain the interpretations. Combining δ13CTDIC ratios with measurements of TDIC and pH clearly distinguishes the principal processes underlying the geochemical evolution of groundwater in Triassic sandstone aquifers, where processes can be both natural (e.g. carbonate dissolution) and anthropogenic (sewer-derived recharge). The paper shows that δ13CTDIC resolves ambiguities that arise from the interpretation of TDIC and pH measurements in isolation. Field measurements demonstrate that, under natural conditions, the carbonate system evolves similarly in each aquifer. An open-system evolution during recharge largely saturates the groundwater with carbonate depending upon its availability in the sandstone matrix. The contribution of sewer exfiltration to urban recharge is readily distinguished by lower pH and higher TDIC values without significant changes in δ13CTDIC.


Carbon 13 TDIC Permo-Triassic sandstone Sewage Urban groundwater 



The Nottingham and Birmingham research was made possible through a grant from the National Environment Research Council (UK) URGENT programme (Grant No. GST02/1986). Research activities were greatly facilitated through cooperation with the Environment Agency, UK (Jason Fairbairn, Phil Humble, Wilson Hull), Severn-Trent Water Plc (Rik Rodgers), IMI Plc (Michael Flanagan) as well as the city councils of Birmingham and Nottingham. Funding for the Doncaster work was provided by the European Union 5th Framework Directive to the AISUWRS Consortium (Grant no. EVK1-CT-2002-00100) and also the authors would like to thank the associated UK project stakeholders: Yorkshire Water Plc., the Environment Agency of England and Wales and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Rueedi
    • 1
  • A. A. Cronin
    • 1
  • R. G. Taylor
    • 2
  • B. L. Morris
    • 3
  1. 1.Robens Centre for Public and Environmental Health, Building AWUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.British Geological SurveyWallingfordUK

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