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Geochemical evolution of groundwater beneath Mexico City

By W.M. Edmunds, J.J. Carillo-Rivera and A. Cardona


The geochemical evolution of groundwaters along a 24 km flow beneath Central Mexico City path from the Sierra de las Cruces towards Lake Texcoco has been investigated using stable isotopes, radiocarbon and major and trace elements to determine the natural baseline conditions, the extent of any contamination and the effectiveness of the overlying aquitard seal. Modern groundwaters of low salinity (<200 mg l−1) are found up to 11 km from the outcrop area and groundwater ages of up to 6000 yr occur in the middle part of the section. Groundwater stable isotope ratios δ18O and δ2H lie close to the global meteoric water line, indicating that the groundwater originates from local rainfall. The groundwater chemistry may be interpreted as the result of inputs from the source area with progressive water–rock interaction down the horizontal flow gradient. A redox boundary is found at 9 km along the line of section, coincident with the start of the confined section. Relatively low nitrate concentrations (below 9 mg l−1 NO3–N) are found in the aerobic waters; low concentrations of NO3 in the aerobic waters and low Cl reflect inputs prior to the modern development. Some elements (Cr, U, As, Se, Sb) increase their concentration with distance (time) as far as the redox boundary, but low concentrations occur in the reducing aquifer section. The chemistry of several major ions (Mg, Na/Cl, K) as well as trace elements such as Li, Rb, Ba reflect the weathering of the basaltic mineral assemblage (feldspars and mafic minerals) and their increases are generally proportional to residence time; phosphate, F and I concentrations indicate a probable source from apatite in the basaltic or rhyolitic rocks. A borehole in the east of the city (some 17 km downgradient) intercepted thermal water (Si geothermometry indicates 163°C at depth). This water gives a distinctive composition indicating possible addition of metamorphic CO2 which has then reacted with the igneous rocks. Increases in B and Cl are derived from volatiles trapped in the glass or vesicular basalt. A thermal anomaly found in the middle section of the heavily pumped aquifer is interpreted as the up-coming of warmer water from medium to greater depth mainly from basalts, rhyolites and possibly limestones.\ud \ud The geochemistry indicates that groundwater beneath Mexico City is of good quality and there is no obvious evidence of leakage of inorganic compounds from surface sources of contamination through the aquitard. The younger groundwater drawn from the western outcrop area is generally of good inorganic quality. Increased drawdowns in the confined aquifer have induced flow of warmer water with higher Cl from depth. The resources in the aquifer represent an important reserve of good quality water which need to be properly managed as a high quality resource as part of integrated plans for the City's future supplies.\ud \u

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2002
DOI identifier: 10.1016/S0022-1694(01)00461-9
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