Applications of Groundwater Helium

  • J. T. KulongoskiEmail author
  • D. R. Hilton
Part of the Advances in Isotope Geochemistry book series (ADISOTOPE)


Helium abundance and isotope variations have widespread application in groundwater-related studies. This stems from the inert nature of this noble gas and the fact that its two isotopes – helium-3 and helium-4 – have distinct origins and vary widely in different terrestrial reservoirs. These attributes allow He concentrations and 3He/4He isotope ratios to be used to recognize and quantify the influence of a number of potential contributors to the total He budget of a groundwater sample. These are atmospheric components, such as air-equilibrated and air-entrained He, as well as terrigenic components, including in situ (aquifer) He, deep crustal and/or mantle He and tritiogenic 3He. Each of these components can be exploited to reveal information on a number of topics, from groundwater chronology, through degassing of the Earth’s crust to the role of faults in the transfer of mantle-derived volatiles to the surface. In this review, we present a guide to how groundwater He is collected from aquifer systems and quantitatively measured in the laboratory. We then illustrate the approach of resolving the measured He characteristics into its component structures using assumptions of endmember compositions. This is followed by a discussion of the application of groundwater He to the types of topics mentioned above using case studies from aquifers in California and Australia. Finally, we present possible future research directions involving dissolved He in groundwater.


Fault Zone Helium Isotope Groundwater Residence Time Basal Flux Tritium Unit 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Mark Baskaran for the invitation to contribute this review chapter. We acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California Water Science CenterU.S. Geological SurveySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of CaliforniaSan Diego, La JollaUSA

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