Advances in Earth Science ›› 2023, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (6): 594-609. doi: 10.11867/j.issn.1001-8166.2023.028

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Definitions of Groundwater Age and Dating Methods: Progresses and Prospects

Qiue XU 1( ), Yuanmei JIAO 1( ), Zhaonian ZHANG 1, Yinping DING 2, Hongsen ZHANG 1, Yan TAO 1   

  1. 1.Faculty of Geography, Yunnan Normal University, Kunming 650500, China
    2.College of Tourism and Geographical Sicence, Leshan Normal University, Leshan Sichuan 614000, China
  • Received:2022-10-30 Revised:2023-01-19 Online:2023-06-10 Published:2023-06-07
  • Contact: Yuanmei JIAO;
  • About author:XU Qiue (1996-), female, Qujing City, Yunnan Province, Master student. Research area includes isotope hydrology. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    the Yunnan Provincial Basic Research Project-Key Project “Research on landscape change and water ecological environment effect of characteristic agricultural watershed in Yunnan Plateau”(202201AS070024);Yunnan Fundamental Research Projects “Scientific investigation of Cangshan Mountain”(202201BC070001);Postgraduate Research and Innovation Fund of Yunnan Normal University “Study on the landscape pattern of hydrogen and oxygen isotopes and its key impact factors in multiple Water in the Hani rice terraces”(YJSJJ22-B99)

Qiue XU, Yuanmei JIAO, Zhaonian ZHANG, Yinping DING, Hongsen ZHANG, Yan TAO. Definitions of Groundwater Age and Dating Methods: Progresses and Prospects[J]. Advances in Earth Science, 2023, 38(6): 594-609.

Groundwater dating is one of the key links in the study of water cycles, especially in hydrogeology. However, the proposed concept of groundwater age and its dating methods are complex and difficult to distinguish, which hinders practical application and further development. This study systematically examines the concept of groundwater age and resident time that often appear in academic circles, simultaneously differentiating and analyzing the derived idealized age, tracer age, apparent age, age distribution, and model age, and comprehensively analyzes and draws a relationship diagram among the definitions. Data of the sample collection and analysis methods, advantages, and disadvantages of the natural isotopes of groundwater dating (including the radionuclide decay method and stable nuclide linear calculation method), and the methods for detecting radionuclides produced by human activities and greenhouse gas tracers are summarized and reviewed. There are two perspectives of groundwater dating methods: water sample points and water systems. The model interpretation methods of multi-tracer combination and age data from the perspective of the water body system (dynamic) are reviewed. Furthermore, we synthetically state that the groundwater dating method should be determined comprehensively according to the research objectives and range of application of tracers, with more attention paid to the study of age distribution characterizing the spatiotemporal dynamics of groundwater systems. Future studies should strengthen the integration and model research of multidisciplinary data, such as geology, hydrology, and hydrochemistry, to establish a numerical model of groundwater flow to describe age distribution and model research.

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