Preferential Recharge in a Reclaimed Tailings Sand Upland: Implications on Solute Flushing

Eric Kessel
Owen Sutton
Jonathan Price
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Given the potential for moisture limited conditions due to the sub-humid regional
climate, ensuring sufficient water availability in these landscapes is a principal concern. This research demonstrates how small recharge basins can modify the hydrology to promote groundwater recharge critical for sustaining saturated conditions in a downgradient wetland.
New hydrological insights for the region: Location was important in determining the efficacy of recharge basins. Specifically, basins placed at the confluence of two hillslopes detained substantial volumes of runoff due to large upslope areas, contributing ~30% of the groundwater budget to the fen, while only occupying 1% of the upland area. Basins situated near low relief hillslopes or altogether isolated from a hillslope did not detain appreciable runoff and therefore had a minor role in recharging groundwater. Groundwater in the vicinity and downgradient of active recharge basins had considerably lower solute concentrations because of dilution. This suggests that basins can not only enhance recharge within engineered landscapes, providing a consistent and focused supply of water to upland aquifers, but offer relatively fresh groundwater to downgradient ecosystems. This could ameliorate the impact of high salinity present in oil sands process-affected materials.