Identification of processes affecting excess airformation during natural bank filtration and managed aquifer recharge

Managed aquifer recharge is gaining importance as a practice to bank and treat surface water for drinking water production. Neon (Ne) concentrations were analysed at four different recharge sites in and near Berlin, where groundwater is recharged directly from surface water courses, either by near-natural bank filtration, induced bank filtration or engineered basin recharge. Neon concentrations in excess of saturation (DNe) were used to identify excess air in the infiltrates. Excess air concentrations were around saturation at the near-natural bank filtration site, where river water infiltrates through a permeable river bed into a confined aquifer under completely saturated conditions. At two induced unconfined bank filtration sites, samples generally contained excess air (up to 60% DNe). Highest excess air concentrations (up to 81% DNe) were encountered at the engineered basin recharge site. The degree of water table fluctuations, the water saturation of the sediments in the infiltration zone and the presence of a confining layer affect the formation of excess air. Excess air can only be used to trace bank filtrate or artificially recharged water in a setting where the ambient groundwater in the near vicinity of production wells is not affected by large water-table fluctuations. Nevertheless, excess air concentrations provide valuable additional information on the type of recharge (saturated or unsaturated, degree of water table fluctuations).

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