Using environmental isotopes to evaluate the renewable capacity of a typical karst groundwater system in northern China

  • Wei Wang
  • Guanghui Zhang
  • Chunhua Liu
Original Article


The karst groundwater in northern China is an important source of water supply. Its capacity for self-renewal is a key factor affecting its sustainable use. The Pingyi–Feixian karst aquifer in central and southern Shandong Province is a typical karst water source, contributing 54% to the total groundwater taken from the region. In this study, 25 groups of water samples were collected from the Pingyi–Feixian karst aquifer in November 2013. The compositions of isotopes of tritium (3H), carbon-13 (13C), and carbon-14 (14C) were measured. As indicated by the tritium values between 7.1 and 12.2 TU, the Pingyi–Feixian karst groundwater is primarily originated from both historical atmospheric precipitation and modern precipitation. The 14C ages corrected by δ13C were between 146 and 5403 years. Specifically, the shallow groundwater is younger than deep groundwater. Groundwater age tends to increase along the flow path. The ages of the groundwater in recharge area were between 146 and 1348 years, while the ages of deep groundwater in flowing area were generally between 2000 and 4000 years. The ages of the groundwater in discharge area with little anthropic exploitation were larger than 4500 years, whereas these with large amounts of exploitation were less than 1500 years. The shallower the groundwater, the stronger its capacity for renewal. The renewable capacity of karst groundwater in discharge area was significantly affected by anthropic exploitation. The karst groundwater in the areas with less exploitation showed the weakest capacity, whereas that in the area with intensive exploitation was much older and had a stronger renewable capacity.


Karst groundwater Isotopes 14C age Renewable capacity 



This work was financed from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41502253) and the National Key Research and Development Project (No. 2017YFC0406106).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Hydrogeology and Environmental GeologyCAGSShijiazhuangChina
  2. 2.China University of GeosciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.NO.1 Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources of Shandong ProvinceJinanChina
  4. 4.Shandong Institute of Geological SurveyJinanChina

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