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Using Noble Gases to Investigate Structural Controls 
    on Mountain Groundwater Flow Systems: Andy Manning
Project Title: Using Noble Gases to Investigate Structural Controls on Mountain Groundwater Flow Systems
Mendenhall Fellow: Andy Manning, (303) 236-1812
Duty Station: Denver, CO
Start Date: October 1, 2002
Education: Ph.D. (Geology), University of Utah, 2002
Research Advisors: Jonathan Caine, (303) 236-1822; Gary Landis, (303) 236-5406; Richard Wanty, (303) 236-1819

Project Description: The objective of this project is to use noble gas and temperature data to better understand groundwater circulation in mountain masses, particularly geologic controls on flow. Mountain groundwater flow systems are very poorly understood, and this lack of understanding is becoming increasingly problematic in light of rapid development in mountain areas.

The investigation will focus on the Handcart Gulch study site, an alpine watershed near the Continental Divide in the Colorado Front Range. Four deep (1500–3000 feet) borings and several shallow monitoring wells, along with an unmined hydrothermal metal deposit, make this site ideal for observing a mountain groundwater flow system fully in three dimensions, including natural geochemical processes that generate low-pH waters with elevated metal concentrations. Groundwater ages (mainly 3H/3He), temperature data, and standard hydraulic data will be integrated into a 3D heat and fluid transport model of the watershed in order to constrain the flow field (active circulation depths and fluid flux rates).

The structure of this flow field will be interpreted in the context of both outcrop and subsurface (borehole) structural geologic data. The flow and transport model will also be used to better understand the transport of acid and metals to the trunk stream, an issue of central importance at many abandoned mine sites.

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Last modified: 16:08:30 Thu 13 Dec 2012