Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Acid saline groundwaters and lakes of southern Western Australia

02.06.2015

The "wheat belt" and "gold fields" of southern Western Australia are associated with a regional acid saline groundwater system. Groundwaters hosted in the Yilgarn Craton there have pH levels as low as 2.4 and salinities as high as 28%, which have greatly affected bedrock and subsurface sediments. This is manifested above ground as hundreds of shallow, ephemeral acid saline lakes.

In the June issue of GSA Today, Kathleen Benison of West Virginia University and Brenda Bowen of the University of Utah write that the limited volume of groundwater, in combination with its acidity, salinity, and high concentrations of some metals, make southern Western Australia a difficult place for human habitation.


Shallow acid saline water in Gneiss Lake, near Grass Patch in Western Australia, is an example of end-member continental brines. Orange iron oxide staining and white halite and gypsum precipitate on Precambrian quartzite gravel in lake. Photo taken in January 2008, when lake water was undergoing evapo-concentration and had pH 2.0 and salinity 28 percent total dissolved solids.

Photo by Kathleen Benison, GSA Today June 2015.

The overarching question addressed by this study is "How did the extreme acidity form here?" The authors discuss the combination of processes that make up these shallow lakes and the groundwater that feeds them, which is not only dependent upon the host rock lithology, mineralogy, climate, weathering, organisms, and time, but also on mining and agriculture in the region.

Benison and Bowen write, "In the twentieth century both agriculture and mining had local influence on acid brine groundwater. A government-sponsored effort to turn the semi-arid eucalypt forests of inland southern Western Australia to crop and ranchland promoted the deforestation of the 'wheat belt' region.

With fewer trees to soak up the acid saline groundwater, the water table rose. Ranchers realized that cattle and sheep did not thrive with acid brines. Farmers found the only successful crops were grown high above the water table and irrigated with desalinized seawater piped a distance of hundreds of kilometers."

Mining efforts have also used desalinized seawater pipelines. Both mining and agriculture import fresher water to the groundwater system and may be responsible for changing the volume of groundwater slightly, as well as potentially causing dissolution of some subsurface halite and other chemical sediments, and, perhaps in turn, increasing groundwater salinity.

Looking forward at further research areas, the authors write, "Extreme acid brine environments similar to those in southern Western Australia have been recognized on Earth and Mars. In particular, some mid-Permian continental environments hosted extremely acid saline lakes and groundwaters that deposited redbeds and evaporites.

The temporal and geographic extent of these Permian acid brine settings, and their relationship to Permian climate change and the end Permian mass extinction, are open scientific questions. Understanding the origin, evolution, and maintenance of modern natural acid brine environments may lead to more informed paleoenvironmental, paleoclimatic, and paleobiological interpretations about ancient acid brines.

###

ARTICLE

The evolution of end-member continental waters: The origin of acidity in southern Western Australia
Kathleen C. Benison, Dept. of Geology and Geography, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia 26506-6300, USA, kathleen.benison@mail.wvu.edu; and Brenda B. Bowen, Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, Global Change and Sustainability Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA. GSA Today, v. 25, no. 6, http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/GSATG231A.1.

GSA Today articles are open access online; for a print copy, please contact Kea Giles. Please discuss articles of interest with the authors before publishing stories on their work, and please make reference to GSA Today in articles published.

http://www.geosociety.org/

Kea Giles | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Australia Geology acid acidity agriculture combination environments mass extinction saline volume water table

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht A new dead zone in the Indian Ocean could impact future marine nutrient balance
06.12.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica
05.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Simple processing technique could cut cost of organic PV and wearable electronics

06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

3-D printed kidney phantoms aid nuclear medicine dosing calibration

06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision

06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>