Right on with radon

Posted on December 9, 2010


Because water with an underground origin often makes up a significant proportion of the water in surface  streams, it’s important to be able to assess the relative contribution of groundwater and its influence on water composition and pollutant levels.  One of the most promising approaches to groundwater tracking and assessment makes use of the fact that concentrations of natural radon (222Rn) are two to four orders of magnitude higher in groundwater than surface water.  Interest in this technique has been boosted by technological advances that mean that is now possible to measure radon concentrations quickly and cheaply under field conditions.  Tests in aFlorida canal showed that radon levels dropped exponentially with distance from a groundwater source, and radon-based estimates of groundwater discharge were within 10% of independently measured values. 

Reference:  Burnett, W.C., Peterson, R.N., Santos, I.R. & Hicks, R.W.  2010.   Use of automated radon measurements for rapid assessment of groundwater flow into Florida streams.  Journal of Hydrology 380, 298–304.

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