The use of fluorescent dyes as tracers in highly saline groundwater

Einat Magal, Noam Weisbrod, Alex Yakirevich, Yoseph Yechieli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The capability of five fluorescent dyes to serve as conservative tracers in highly saline groundwater was evaluated by a series of batch experiments on pure minerals and natural sediments. Dye sorption was tested in four different salinities (from fresh rainwater to Dead Sea water) on five pure minerals and four natural sediments taken from boreholes drilled along the Dead Sea shore. It was found that the dyes Sulfo-Rhodamine B and Eosin are strongly adsorbed on pure minerals and sediments and therefore cannot be used as conservative tracers in saline groundwater. Uranine and Pyranine sorption is increased at higher salinities, therefore they can be used as tracers in moderately saline groundwater only. Na Naphthionate was found to be the best tracer for fresh and saline water, with minimal sorption in all cases. Sorption of the dyes on four natural sediments was measured and values were found to be in accord with those of previous sorption on pure minerals. Sorption on natural sediments was also estimated based on the mineral composition of the sediment and the known sorption on the pure minerals. The estimated sorption values were usually 25% lower than those of the sorption directly measured. Nevertheless, sorption on pure minerals can be used as a first approximation for sorption on natural sediments. The impact of sediment to solution ratio was tested for Uranine as a model dye. The distribution coefficient (Kd) of Uranine in highly saline Dead Sea water was found to be dependent on the sediment to solution ratio (mass/volume), where low ratios resulted in higher values of Kd. Also, higher Kd values were calculated for fine grain size due to higher sorption capacity on larger surface areas. The difference in Kd, however, is not directly related to the specific surface size of the grains and should be examined separately.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-133
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 30 Aug 2008


  • Artificial tracers
  • Dead Sea brine
  • Fluorescent dye
  • Saline groundwater
  • Sorption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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