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Hydrochemistry of the Lake Magadi basin, Kenya

January 1, 1977

New and more complete compositional data are presented for a large number of water samples from the Lake Magadi area, Kenya. These water samples range from dilute inflow (<0.1 g/kg dissolved solids) to very concentrated brines (>300 g/kg dissolved solids). Five distinct hydrologic stages can be recognized in the evolution of the water compositions: dilute streamflow, dilute ground water, saline ground water (or hot spring reservoir), saturated brines, and residual brines. Based on the assumption that chloride is conserved in the waters during evaporative concentration, these stages are related to each other by the concentration factors of about 1:28:870:7600:16,800. Dilute streamflow is represented by perennial streams entering the Rift Valley from the west. All but one (Ewaso Ngiro) of these streams disappear in the alluvium and do not reach the valley floor. Dilute ground water was collected from shallow pits and wells dug into lake sediments and alluvial channels. Saline ground water is roughly equivalent to the hot springs reservoir postulated by Eugster (1970) and is represented by the hottest of the major springs. Saturated brines represent surficial lake brines just at the point of saturation with respect to trona (Na2CO3.NaHCO3.2H2O), while residual brines are essentially interstitial to the evaporite deposit and have been subjected to a complex history of precipitation and re-solution. The new data confirm the basic hydrologic model presented by Eugster (1970) which has now been refined, particularly with respect to the early stages of evaporative concentration. Budget calculations show that only bromide is conserved as completely as chloride. Sodium follows chloride closely until trona precipitation, whereas silica and sulfate are largely lost during the very first concentration' step (dilute streamflow-dilute ground water). A large fraction of potassium and all calcium plus magnesium are removed during the first two concentration steps (dilute streamflow-dilute ground water-saline ground water). Carbonate and bicarbonate are the dominant anions, and mechanisms by which they are extracted from the solution include precipitation of alkali and alkaline-earth carbonates, and degassing, as well as precipitation and re-solution of efflorescent crusts. Much sulfate is apparently lost from solution by sorption as well as subsurface reduction. Seasonal runoff, principally from the valley floor north of Lake Magadi, is considered to be the principal recharge to the Magadi ground water system. Evaporative concentration is the overall process responsible for the chemical evolution of the brines. This includes not only simple evaporation, but also mineral precipitation as films and cements in the unsaturated zone, re-solution, and reprecipitation of efflorescent crusts, with consequent recycling of salts. In fact, a large fraction of the solutes are acquired through dissolution of efflorescent crusts. Data were obtained for borehole brines from as deep as 297 m. They show the existence of two distinct brine bodies below the present lake, one shallow, coexistent with bedded salts, and highly concentrated (260 g/kg average dissolved solids), and the other deeper in lacustrine sediments or fractured lavas, and only half as concentrated. ?? 1977.

Publication Year 1977
Title Hydrochemistry of the Lake Magadi basin, Kenya
Authors B.F. Jones, H.P. Eugster, S.L. Rettig
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Index ID 70010945
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse