Submarine groundwater discharge to a small estuary estimated from radon and salinity measurements and a box model
Abstract. Submarine groundwater discharge was quantified by a variety of methods for a 4-day period during the early summer of 2004, in Salt Pond, adjacent to Nauset Marsh, on Cape Cod, USA. Discharge estimates based on radon and salinity took advantage of the presence of the narrow channel connecting Salt Pond to Nauset Marsh, which allowed constructing whole-pond mass balances as water flowed in and out due to tidal fluctuations. The data suggest that less than one quarter of the discharge in the vicinity of Salt Pond happened within the pond itself, while three quarters or more of the discharge occurred immediately seaward of the pond, either in the channel or in adjacent regions of Nauset Marsh. Much of this discharge, which maintains high radon activities and low salinity, is carried into the pond during each incoming tide. A box model was used as an aid to understand both the rates and the locations of discharge in the vicinity of Salt Pond. The model achieves a reasonable fit to both the salinity and radon data assuming submarine groundwater discharge is fresh and that most of it occurs either in the channel or in adjacent regions of Nauset Marsh. Salinity and radon data, together with seepage meter results, do not rule out discharge of saline groundwater, but suggest either that the saline discharge is at most comparable in volume to the fresh discharge or that it is depleted in radon. The estimated rate of fresh groundwater discharge in the vicinity of Salt Pond is 3000-7000 m3 d-1. This groundwater flux estimated from the radon and salinity data is comparable to a value of 3200-4500 m3 d-1 predicted by a recent hydrologic model (Masterson, 2004; Colman and Masterson, 2004), although the model predicts this rate of discharge to the pond whereas our data suggest most of the groundwater bypasses the pond prior to discharge. Additional work is needed to determine if the measured rate of discharge is representative of the long-term average, and to better constrain the rate of groundwater discharge seaward of Salt Pond.