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Scientific Investigations Report 2013-5115

Prepared in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Water Resources

Recharge Sources and Residence Times of Groundwater as Determined by Geochemical Tracers in the Mayfield Area, Southwestern Idaho, 2011–12

By Candice B. Hopkins


Parties proposing residential development in the area of Mayfield, Idaho are seeking a sustainable groundwater supply. During 2011–12, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Water Resources, used geochemical tracers in the Mayfield area to evaluate sources of aquifer recharge and differences in groundwater residence time. Fourteen groundwater wells and one surface-water site were sampled for major ion chemistry, metals, stable isotopes, and age tracers; data collected from this study were used to evaluate the sources of groundwater recharge and groundwater residence times in the area.

Major ion chemistry varied along a flow path between deeper wells, suggesting an upgradient source of dilute water, and a downgradient source of more concentrated water with the geochemical signature of the Idaho Batholith. Samples from shallow wells had elevated nutrient concentrations, a more positive oxygen-18 signature, and younger carbon-14 dates than deep wells, suggesting that recharge comes from young precipitation and surface-water infiltration. Samples from deep wells generally had higher concentrations of metals typical of geothermal waters, a more negative oxygen-18 signature, and older carbon-14 values than samples from shallow wells, suggesting that recharge comes from both infiltration of meteoric water and another source. The chemistry of groundwater sampled from deep wells is somewhat similar to the chemistry in geothermal waters, suggesting that geothermal water may be a source of recharge to this aquifer. Results of NETPATH mixing models suggest that geothermal water composes 1–23 percent of water in deep wells. Chlorofluorocarbons were detected in every sample, which indicates that all groundwater samples contain at least a component of young recharge, and that groundwater is derived from multiple recharge sources. Conclusions from this study can be used to further refine conceptual hydrological models of the area.

First posted May 30, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, Idaho Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
230 Collins Road
Boise, Idaho 83702

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Suggested citation:

Hopkins, C.B., 2013, Recharge sources and residence times of groundwater as determined by geochemical tracers in the Mayfield Area, southwestern Idaho, 2011–12: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5115, 36 p.,




Description of the Study Area


Concentration and Distribution of Geochemical Tracers

Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

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