Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Applications of Groundwater Helium

June 19, 2012

Helium abundance and isotope variations have widespread application in groundwater-related studies. This stems from the inert nature of this noble gas and the fact that its two isotopes ? helium-3 and helium-4 ? have distinct origins and vary widely in different terrestrial reservoirs. These attributes allow He concentrations and 3He/4He isotope ratios to be used to recognize and quantify the influence of a number of potential contributors to the total He budget of a groundwater sample. These are atmospheric components, such as air-equilibrated and air-entrained He, as well as terrigenic components, including in situ (aquifer) He, deep crustal and/or mantle He and tritiogenic 3He. Each of these components can be exploited to reveal information on a number of topics, from groundwater chronology, through degassing of the Earth?s crust to the role of faults in the transfer of mantle-derived volatiles to the surface. In this review, we present a guide to how groundwater He is collected from aquifer systems and quantitatively measured in the laboratory. We then illustrate the approach of resolving the measured He characteristics into its component structures using assumptions of endmember compositions. This is followed by a discussion of the application of groundwater He to the types of topics mentioned above using case studies from aquifers in California and Australia. Finally, we present possible future research directions involving dissolved He in groundwater.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Applications of Groundwater Helium
DOI 10.1007/978-3-642-10637-8_15
Authors Justin T. Kulongoski, David R. Hilton
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70007524
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center