Water Tracing Experiments in Low-pH Quartzite Karst Water, Chapada Diamantina, Northeastern Brazil

  • Augusto S. AulerEmail author
  • Philippe Meus
  • Paulo F. P. Pessoa
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Karst Science book series (AKS)


The existence of karst features and conduit flow in silica-rich rocks has been increasingly recognized around the world. Well-developed quartzite karst is known in tropical settings, such as southern Venezuela and eastern Brazil. However, little is known about the hydrogeological behavior of these terrains. Pioneering water tracing studies were performed in the Proterozoic quartzites of the Chapada Diamantina (Diamontiferous Plateau) of central-eastern Brazil, using the tracers amino-G and uranine. Tracer detection was performed by four in situ fluorometers, granular-activated charcoal receptors and water analysis. Hydrochemical conditions resulted in contrasting performances of the tracers, with uranine providing some positive results and yielding clear breakthrough curves. Low-pH water and high-fluorescence background levels appear to considerably inhibit tracer performance and add difficulties in the interpretation of some tracer tests. A preliminary assessment of flow routes and the main characteristics of groundwater dynamics in this quartzite area are provided, with insights on the behavior of the tracers under acidic (pH = 4–5) water conditions.


Quartzite karst Chapada Diamantina Fluorescence Water tracing 



We acknowledge the help of the local guide, Chiquinho, in showing us springs, swallets and caves in the study area. The staff at European Water Tracing Services (Belgium), Hidrovia Hidrogeologia e Meio Ambiente (Brazil), and Carste Ciência e Meio Ambiente (Brazil) helped with analyses and various aspects of this manuscript. Special thanks to Bárbara Zambelli, Caroline Reis, and Rafael Cruz for helping with data and figures and Daniel Menin for providing photograph.


  1. Abbott BW, Baranov V, Mendoza-Lera C, Nikolakopoulou M, Harjung A, Kolbe T, Balasubramanian MN, Vaessen TN, Ciocca F, Campeau A, Wallin MB, Romeijn P, Antonelli P, Gonçalves J, Datry T, Laverman AM, Dreuzy JR, Hannah DM, Krause S, Oldham C, Pinay G (2016) Using multi-tracer inference to move beyond single-catchment ecohydrology. Earth Sciences Reviews 160:19–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almeida FFM (1977) O Cráton do São Francisco. Revista Brasileira de Geociências 7:349–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Auler AS (2012) Quartzite caves of South America. In White WB, Culver DC (eds) Encyclopedia of Caves. Academic Press, Chennai, p. 635–639CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chaves RR, Cavalcanti IFA (2001) Atmospheric circulation features associated with rainfall variability over southern Northeast Brazil. Monthly Weather Review 129: 2614–2626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Goldscheider N, Meiman J, Pronk M, Smart C (2008) Tracer tests in karst hydrogeology and speleology. International Journal of Speleology 37:27–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Jones WK (2012) Water tracing in karst aquifers. In White WB, Culver DC (eds) Encyclopedia of Caves. Academic Press, Chennai, p. 887–897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Kass W (1998) Tracing technique in geohydrology. A.A. Balkema, RotterdamGoogle Scholar
  8. Leibundgut C, Maloszewski P, Külls C (2009) Tracers in hydrology. Wiley Blackwell, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  9. Lyons RG (1993) Identification and separation of water tracing dyes using pH response characteristics. Journal of Hydrology 152:13–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Mecchia M, Sauro F, Piccini L, De Waele J, Sanna L, Tisato N, Lira J, Vergara F (2014) Geochemistry of surface and subsurface waters in quartz-sandstones: significance for the geomorphic evolution of tepui table mountains (Gran Sabana, Venezuela). Journal of Hydrology 511:117–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Oba Y, Poulson SR (2012) Octanol-water partition coefficients (Kow) vs. pH for fluorescent dye tracers (fluorescein, eosin Y), and implications for hydrologic tracer tests. Geochemical Journal 46:517–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Pedreira AJ (1997) Sistemas Deposicionais da Chapada Diamantina Centro-Oriental, Bahia. Revista Brasileira de Geociências 27:229–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Pereira RF, Rocha AJD, Pedreira AJ, Etchevarne C, Nolasco M, Pascoal Junior OS, Torlay R (2017) Geoparque Serra do Sincorá, BA: proposta. CPRM, BrasíliaGoogle Scholar
  14. Smart PL, Laidlaw IMS (1977) An evaluation of some fluorescent dyes for water tracing. Water Resources Research 13:15–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Smart PL, Smith DI (1976) Water tracing in tropical regions, the use of fluorometric techniques in Jamaica. Journal of Hydrology 30:179–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Wiegand J, Fey M, Haus N, Karmann I (2004) Geochimische und hydrochemischeuntersuchungzurgenese von sandstein-und quarzitkarst in der ChapadaDiamantina und imeisernviereck (Brasilien). Zeitschrift der Deutschen Geologischen Gesellschaft. 155:61–90Google Scholar
  17. Wray RAL (2009) Phreatic drainage conduits within quartz sandstone: evidence from the Jurassic Precipice Sandstone, Carnarvon Range, Queensland, Australia. Geomorphology 110:203–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Wray RAL, Sauro F (2017) An updated global review of solutional weathering processes and forms in quartz sandstone and quartzite. Earth Sciences Reviews 171:520–557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Zhu H, Derksen RC, Krause CR, Fox RD, Brazee RD, Ozkan HE (2005) Fluorescent intensity of dye solutions under different pH conditions. Journal of the ASTM International 2:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Augusto S. Auler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Philippe Meus
    • 2
  • Paulo F. P. Pessoa
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto do CarsteBelo HorizonteBrazil
  2. 2.European Water Tracing ServicesNandrinBelgium

Personalised recommendations