Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 69, Issue 5, pp 1589–1600 | Cite as

Identification of sulfate sources in groundwater using isotope analysis and modeling of flood irrigation with waters of different quality in the Jinghuiqu district of China

  • Xiuhua LiuEmail author
  • Jirka Šimůnek
  • Lin Li
  • Junqi He
Original Article


The main objective of this study was to identify the main sources and processes that control SO4 2− groundwater concentrations in the Jinghuiqu irrigation district of China using isotope analysis. Lysimeter irrigation experiments and numerical modeling were used to assess the impact of long-term irrigation practices on sulfate transport, when different sources of irrigation water were used. SO4 2− concentrations in the groundwater of the entire irrigation area increased significantly from the years 1990 (a mean value was 4.8 mmol L−1) to 2009 (a mean value was 9.84 mmol L−1). The δ34S-SO4 2− values (ranging from +5.27 to +10.69 ‰) indicated that sulfates in groundwater were initially predominantly derived from dissolution of minerals. However, no soluble sulfate minerals (gypsum and/or mirabilite) were detected after 1990. To better understand this seeming anomaly, water content and SO4 2− data were collected before and after the field irrigation experiment and analyzed using the HYDRUS-1D and HP1 software packages. The experimental data were also used to assess sulfate leaching when different sources of irrigation water were used under current irrigation practices. The dissolved sulfate concentrations in the soil profile increased significantly when groundwater was used for infiltration compared to the use of surface water. Irrigation water sources had a great impact on the increase of sulfate concentrations in the shallow groundwater, especially when groundwater with elevated concentrations was used for irrigation.


Sulfate Stable isotopes Irrigation Transport and leaching HYDRUS-1D and HP1 models 



This work was supported by the “Program on creation and intellectual importation for hydro-ecology and water security in the arid and semiarid regions” of the Ministry of Education and Foreign Expert Bureau of China (“111” project), and the project “Improving water use efficiency, and the experiment and demonstration of promoting new socialist countryside construction in the irrigation areas” of the Department of Water Resources of Shaanxi Province. Special thanks also go to the Jinghuiqu administration for data sharing.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and EngineeringChang’an UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of California RiversideRiversideUSA
  3. 3.Xi’an Center of Geological SurveyChina Geological SurveyXi’anChina
  4. 4.Water and Development InstituteChang’an UniversityXi’anChina

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