Groundwater age distributions at a public drinking water supply well field derived from multiple age tracers (⁸⁵Kr, ³H/³He, and ³⁹Ar)

Visser, A.; Broers, H. P.; Purtschert, Roland; Sültenfuss, J.; de Jonge, M. (2013). Groundwater age distributions at a public drinking water supply well field derived from multiple age tracers (⁸⁵Kr, ³H/³He, and ³⁹Ar). Water resources research, 49(11), pp. 7778-7796. American Geophysical Union 10.1002/2013WR014012

visser13wrr.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (936kB) | Preview

Groundwater age is a key aspect of production well vulnerability. Public drinking water supply wells typically have long screens and are expected to produce a mixture of groundwater ages. The groundwater age distributions of seven production wells of the Holten well field (Netherlands) were estimated from tritium-helium (3H/3He), krypton-85 (85Kr), and argon-39 (39Ar), using a new application of a discrete age distribution model and existing mathematical models, by minimizing the uncertainty-weighted squared differences of modeled and measured tracer concentrations. The observed tracer concentrations fitted well to a 4-bin discrete age distribution model or a dispersion model with a fraction of old groundwater. Our results show that more than 75 of the water pumped by four shallow production wells has a groundwater age of less than 20 years and these wells are very vulnerable to recent surface contamination. More than 50 of the water pumped by three deep production wells is older than 60 years. 3H/3He samples from short screened monitoring wells surrounding the well field constrained the age stratification in the aquifer. The discrepancy between the age stratification with depth and the groundwater age distribution of the production wells showed that the well field preferentially pumps from the shallow part of the aquifer. The discrete groundwater age distribution model appears to be a suitable approach in settings where the shape of the age distribution cannot be assumed to follow a simple mathematical model, such as a production well field where wells compete for capture area.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics

UniBE Contributor:

Purtschert, Roland


500 Science > 530 Physics




American Geophysical Union




Doris Rätz

Date Deposited:

25 Sep 2014 15:13

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:31

Publisher DOI:





Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback