Evaluation of geochemical and hydrogeological processes by geochemical modeling in an area affected by evaporite karstification

P. Acero, L. F. Auqué, J. P. Galve, F. Gutiérrez, D. Carbonel, M. J. Gimeno, Y. Yechieli, M. P. Asta, J. B. Gómez

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24 Scopus citations


The Ebro Valley in the outskirts of Zaragoza (NE Spain) is severely affected by evaporite karstification, leading to multiple problems related to subsidence and sinkhole formation. In this work, a combination of inverse (mixing. +. mass-balance) and forward (reaction-path) geochemical calculations is applied for the quantification of the main karstification processes and seasonal variations in this area. The obtained results prove the suitability of the applied methodology for the characterization of similar problems in other areas with scarce geological and hydrogeological information. The hydrogeology and hydrochemistry of the system can be mainly attributed to the mixing of variable proportions of concentrated groundwater from the evaporitic aquifer and more dilute water from the overlying alluvial aquifer. The existence of a good connection between these aquifers is supported by: (1) the fast changes in the hydrochemistry of the karst aquifer related to recharge by irrigation, and (2) the deduced input of evaporitic groundwater in the alluvial materials. The evolution in some parts of the alluvial/evaporitic aquifer system is clearly dominated by the seasonal variations in the recharge by dilute irrigation waters (up to 95% of water volume in some sinkhole ponds), whereas other points seem to be clearly determined by the hydrochemistry of the concentrated evaporitic aquifer groundwater (up to 50% of the water volume in some springs). The following reactions, previous or superimposed to mixing processes, explain the observed hydrochemistry in the studied area: dissolution of halite (NaCl), gypsum (CaSO4{dot operator}2H2O)/anhydrite (CaSO4) and dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2), CO2(g) input and degassing and calcite (CaCO3) dissolution/precipitation. The modeling results suggest the existence of a large spatial variability in the composition of the evaporitic groundwater, mainly caused by large differences in the availability of halite in contact with the groundwater. Active subsidence associated with halite dissolution is expected to continue in the study area, together with the episodic increase of gypsum dissolution associated with the input of dilute irrigation waters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1874-1889
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Hydrochemistry
  • Mass-balance calculations
  • Sinkholes
  • Water mixing


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