Natural tracer study of mountain block recharge in headwater catchment: Davidson Canyon

Claire Tritz, Jennifer McIntosh, and Alyssa Kirk
Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences
The University of Arizona

Mountain block recharge (MBR) is known to be an important contributor to adjacent basin-fill aquifer systems in many arid systems. The spatial distribution, quantity, and flow paths of MBR are often poorly constrained, including flow related to surface mountain front recharge through stream channels. This research aims to better characterize MBR and its hydraulic connections to surface flow, shallow alluvial aquifers, and regional basin-fill aquifers by studying a headwater catchment in southeast Arizona, Davidson Canyon. Previous geochemical studies in the northern Santa Rita Mountains suggest that surface flows in Davidson Canyon are a mixture of recent precipitation and older, more chemically evolved groundwater. This study aims to expand upon these by instrumenting the Davidson Canyon watershed, from its headwaters at the edge of the mountain block, to its discharge into Cienega Creek at the basin floor. The instrumentation will include piezometers in the shallow streambed, stream flow auto-samplers, wildlife cameras, and seasonal precipitation collectors. Geochemical analysis, including stable isotopes, major ions, and tritium, will be coupled with the instrumentation to constrain the sources and flow paths of MBR and groundwater-surface water interactions in a headwater catchment.

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