Groundwater compartmentalisation: a water table height and geochemical analysis of the structural controls on the subdivision of a major aquifer, the Sherwood Sandstone, Merseyside, UK

Mohamed, E. A.; Worden, R. H.

Compartmentalisation, the subdivision of an aquifer into discrete and relatively isolated units, may be of critical importance for the protection of groundwater although it has been largely ignored in the groundwater literature. The Lower Triassic Sherwood Sandstone, in north west of England, UK, may be a good example of an aquifer that has been compartmentalised by numerous high angle faults with displacements of up to 300 m. The study was initiated to assess the local groundwater flow, the extent of seawater invasion and the controls on recharge in the aquifer and to try to understand whether the aquifer is broken into discrete compartments.

line-height: 20px; Maps and schematic cross-sections of groundwater heads for the years 1993, and 2002 were prepared to trace any structural controls on the groundwater heads across the area. Studying the contour maps and cross sections revealed that: 1) there are substantial differences in groundwater head across some of the NNW-SSE trending faults implying that groundwater flow is strongly limited by faults, 2) an anticline in the east of the area acts as a groundwater divide and 3) the groundwater head seems to follow the topography in some places, although steep changes in groundwater head occur across faults showing that they locally control the groundwater head. The aquifer was thus provisionally subdivided into several hydrogeological sub-basins based on groundwater head patterns and the occurrence of major structural features (faults and a fold).

line-height: 20px; Using groundwater geochemistry data, contour maps of chloride and sulphate concentration largely support the structural sub-division of the area into hydrogeological sub-basins. Scrutiny of groundwater geochemical data, averaged for each sub-basin, confirmed the degree of compartmentalisation and the occurrence of sealed faults. The variation of the geochemical composition of the groundwater not only relates to the different, localised geochemical processes and seawater intrusion but also relates to compartmentalisation due to faulting. Faults have limited the degree of mixing between the groundwater types thus retaining the specific characteristics of each sub-basin. Highly localised seawater intrusion is mainly controlled by low permeability fault close to the Irish Sea and Mersey estuary. There is effectively no invasion of seawater beyond the faults that lie closest to the coastline. Freshwater recharge to the aquifer seems to be highly localised and mainly occurs by vertical percolation of rain and surface water rather than whole aquifer-scale groundwater flow. This study provides a detailed understanding of the groundwater flow processes in Liverpool as an example of methods can be applied to groundwater management elsewhere.

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Zitierform:

Mohamed, E. A. / Worden, R. H.: Groundwater compartmentalisation: a water table height and geochemical analysis of the structural controls on the subdivision of a major aquifer, the Sherwood Sandstone, Merseyside, UK. 2006. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: E. A. Mohamed

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