Earth Science Frontiers ›› 2022, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (3): 76-87.DOI: 10.13745/j.esf.sf.2022.1.44

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Advances in 222Rn application in the study of groundwater-surface water interactions

LIAO Fu1(), LUO Xin2, XIE Yueqing3, YI Lixin4, LI Hailong5, WANG Guangcai1,*()   

  1. 1. School of Water Resources and Environment & MOE Key Laboratory of Groundwater Circulation and Environmental Evolution, China University of Geosciences (Beijing), Beijing 100083, China
    2. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong 999077, China
    3. School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
    4. College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Nankai University, Tianjin 300071, China
    5. School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen 518055, China
  • Received:2022-01-17 Revised:2022-02-16 Online:2022-05-25 Published:2022-04-28
  • Contact: WANG Guangcai


Groundwater-surface water interaction is important for water resource management and aquatic ecosystem protection. Radon (222Rn) has been widely used in the investigation of groundwater-surface water interaction owing to its application advantages, such as its large concentration difference between groundwater and surface water, noble gas properties, and ease of measurement. In this study, we analyzed 222Rn applications in different surface waters (sea, river, lake, etc.) and identified the 222Rn concentration variation in groundwater as a key challenge in the estimation of groundwater discharge into surface water. When estimating submarine groundwater discharge (SGD), 222Rn mixing loss and its variable concentrations in seawater, and the complexity of SGD components would produce uncertainties in the estimation results. Also, it is difficult to determine 222Rn atmospheric loss when estimating riverine groundwater discharge using the 222Rn method. Further, little attention has been paid to the application of 222Rn in tracing surface water flow into groundwater. Thus, future studies on 222Rn application in regarding to groundwater-surface water interaction should focus on (1) reducing final uncertainty in 222Rn-based estimation of groundwater discharge due to variable 222Rn concentrations in groundwater; (2) accurately characterizing the 222Rn atmospheric loss for different surface waters under different hydrological conditions; (3) expanding scientific applications of the 222Rn method; and (4) developing a software that integrates the 222Rn mass balance model and uncertainty analysis.

Key words: radon (222Rn), groundwater-surface water interaction, groundwater discharge

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