Isotope methods in groundwater studies

Anniina Kittilä, ETH Zürich, Institute of Geophysics, Geothermische Energie u. Geofluide. Sonneggstrasse 5, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland e-mail: anniina.kittila(at) 

In hydrogeological studies the water types of different end-members are of special interest, since most groundwaters are mixtures of different end-member types. Using a combination of different isotope methods the nature of water-rock interactions and the participation of different end-member water types in mixing and water evolution processes can be studied in detail (Négrel et al. 2005). It is also advisable to combine several isotopes in hydrogeological studies, when possible (IAEA 1998). As an example, measuring both δ34S and δ18O from sulphates derives in more detailed information about the sources of sulphur than only relying on sulphur isotopic composition (e.g. Clark & Fritz 1997). Integration of conventional hydrochemistry with isotopes is also essential, because elemental concentrations could help in interpretation of contaminant sources and groundwater pathways (IAEA 1998).

In the following pages use and applications of isotope methods are discussed in a more detail:

In addition, in Closedure project use of H, O, S, U, and Sr isotopes was applied in a study to recognize impacts of mining on natural waters and in identifying groundwater flow paths in bedrock structures:


Clark, I.D. & Fritz, P. 1997. Environmental Isotopes in Hydrogeology. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, 328 p.

IAEA. 1998. Application of isotope techniques to investigate groundwater pollution. IAEA-TECDOC-1046, 7-8.

Négrel, P., Casanova, J. & Blomqvist, R. 2005. 87Sr/86Sr of brines from the Fennoscandian Shield: a synthesis of groundwater isotopic data from the Baltic Sea region. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 42, 273-285.