Hydrogeology Journal

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 263–287 | Cite as

Geochemistry and the understanding of ground-water systems

  • Pierre D. GlynnEmail author
  • L. Niel Plummer


Geochemistry has contributed significantly to the understanding of ground-water systems over the last 50 years. Historic advances include development of the hydrochemical facies concept, application of equilibrium theory, investigation of redox processes, and radiocarbon dating. Other hydrochemical concepts, tools, and techniques have helped elucidate mechanisms of flow and transport in ground-water systems, and have helped unlock an archive of paleoenvironmental information. Hydrochemical and isotopic information can be used to interpret the origin and mode of ground-water recharge, refine estimates of time scales of recharge and ground-water flow, decipher reactive processes, provide paleohydrological information, and calibrate ground-water flow models. Progress needs to be made in obtaining representative samples. Improvements are needed in the interpretation of the information obtained, and in the construction and interpretation of numerical models utilizing hydrochemical data. The best approach will ensure an optimized iterative process between field data collection and analysis, interpretation, and the application of forward, inverse, and statistical modeling tools. Advances are anticipated from microbiological investigations, the characterization of natural organics, isotopic fingerprinting, applications of dissolved gas measurements, and the fields of reaction kinetics and coupled processes. A thermodynamic perspective is offered that could facilitate the comparison and understanding of the multiple physical, chemical, and biological processes affecting ground-water systems.


Isotopes Geochemistry Hydrochemical modeling Paleohydrology Groundwater age 


La géochimie a contribué de façon importante à la compréhension des systèmes d’eaux souterraines pendant les 50 dernières années. Les avancées ont portées sur le développement du concept des faciès hydrochimiques, sur l’application de la théorie des équilibres, l’étude des processus d’oxydoréduction, et sur la datation au radiocarbone. D’autres concepts, outils et techniques, ont aidé à l’ élucidation des élucider les mécanismes d’écoulement et de transport dans les systèmes d’eaux souterraines, et à la compréhension des archives informations paléo-environnementales. Les informations hydrochimiques et isotopiques peuvent être utilisées pour interpréter l’origine et le mode de recharge des eaux souterraines, affiner l’estimation des temps de recharge et d’ écoulements, déchiffrer les processus de réaction, apporter une meilleure information paléohydrogéologique et calibrer les modèles d’écoulement des eaux souterraines. Beaucoup de progrès ont besoin d’être réalisés pour obtenir des échantillons représentatifs. Des améliorations sont nécessaires dans l’interprétation des informations obtenues, et dans la construction et l’interprétation de modèles numériques utilisant des données hydrochimiques. La meilleure approches arsurément un processus itératif optimisé entre la collection de données de terrain et l’analyse, l’interprétation, et l’application d’outils de modélisation statistique, inverse et direct. Des avancées sont anticipées par les dans le demeine des études microbiologiques, dans la caractérisation des matières organiques naturelles, le marquage isotopique, les mesures de gaz dissous, les réactions cinétiques la compréhension des couplages. Une perspectives thermodynamique pourraient faciliter la comparaison et la compréhension des multiples processus physiques, chimiques et biologiques qui affectent les systèmes hydrogéologiques.


La geoquímica ha contribuido significativamente al entendimiento de los sistemas de aguas subterráneas durante los últimos 50 años. Entre los avances históricos puede incluirse el desarrollo del concento de facies hidroquímicas, la aplicación de la teoría de equilibrio, investigación de los procesos oxidación-reducción, y datación con radiocarbono. Otros conceptos, herramientas y técnicas hidroquímicas han ayudado a esclarecer los mecanismos de flujo y transporte en sistemas de agua subterránea, y han ayudado a descifrar un archivo de información paleoambiental. Información hidroquímica e isotópica puede utilizarse para interpretar el origen y modo de recarga de agua subterránea, descifrar procesos reactivos, aportar información paleohidrológica, y calibrar modelos de flujo de agua subterránea. Necesita avanzarse en la obtención de muestras representativas. Se necesitan mejoras en la interpretación de la información obtenida y en la construcción e interpretación de modelos numéricos que utilizan datos hidroquímicos. El mejor enfoque asegurará un proceso iterativo optimizado entre toma y análisis de datos de campo, interpretación, y la aplicación de herramientas de modelizado estadísticas, directas, e inversas. Se anticipan avances a partir de investigaciones microbiológicas, la caracterización de orgánicos naturales, caracterización isotópica, aplicaciones de mediciones de gas disuelto, y los campos de cinética de reacción y procesos acoplados. Se ofrece una perspectiva termodinámica que podría facilitar la comparación y entendimiento de los múltiples procesos físicos, químicos, y biológicos que afectan sistemas de aguas subterráneas.



The views expressed here reflect the collective experiences of the authors gained through their research, and through interactions with colleagues in the National Research Program of the U.S. Geological Survey, from exchanges with numerous other USGS hydrologists, geochemists, and geologists, and from interactions with many other scientists within the academic and international hydrologic communities. We thank A. Bath, O.P. Bricker, B.F. Jones, D.K. Nordstrom, D.L. Parkhurst, F.J. Pearson, Jr., I.J. Winograd, and an anonymous reviewer for their detailed and thoughtful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We have undoubtedly failed to cite some key publications and important concepts. We take sole responsibility for all biases, omissions, oversights, and inaccuracies.


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© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.US Geological Survey436 National CenterRestonUSA
  2. 2.US Geological Survey432 National CenterRestonUSA

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