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Paleogroundwater in the Moutere gravel aquifers near Nelson, New Zealand.

Michael K Stewart, Joseph T Thomas, Margaret Norris, Vanessa Trompetter


Radiocarbon, (super 18) O, and chemical concentrations have been used to identify groundwater recharged during the last ice age near Nelson, New Zealand. Moutere Gravel underlies most of the Moutere Depression, a 30-km-wide system of valleys filled with Plio-Pleistocene gravel. The depression extends northwards into Tasman Bay, which was above sea level when the North and South Islands of New Zealand were connected during the last glaciation. The aquifers are tapped by bores up to 500 m deep. Shallow bores (50-100m) tap "pre-industrial" Holocene water (termed the "modern" component) with (super 14) C concentrations of 90+ or -10 percent modern carbon (pMC) and delta (super 18) O values of -6.8+ or -0.4 per mil, as expected for present-day precipitation. Deeper bores discharge water with lower (super 14) C concentrations and more negative (super 18) O values resulting from input of much older water from depth. The deep end-member of the mixing trend is identified as paleowater (termed the "glacial" component) with (super 14) C concentration close to 0 pMC and more negative (super 18) O values (-7.6 per mil). Mixing of the modern and glacial components gives rise to the variations observed in the (super 14) C, (super 18) O, and chemical concentrations of the waters. Identification of the deep groundwater as glacial water suggests that there may be a large body of such water onshore and offshore at deep levels. More generally, the influence of changing sea levels in the recent past (geologically speaking) on the disposition of groundwaters in coastal areas of New Zealand may have been far greater than we have previously realized.


absolute age;alluvium aquifers;aquifers ;Australasia ;boreholes ;C 13 C 12;C 14;carbon ;Cenozoic ;chlorofluorocarbons ;concentration ;dates ;geochemistry ;ground water;halogenated hydrocarbons;hydrochemistry ;hydrogen ;isotope ratios;isotopes ;Moutere Depression;Nelson New Zealand;New Zealand;O 18 O 16;organic compounds;oxygen ;paleoenvironment ;paleohydrology ;Quaternary ;radioactive isotopes;recharge ;residence time;samples ;sea level changes;South Island;stable isotopes;tritium ;upper Quaternary

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