• heterogeneous alluvial aquifer;
  • riverside agricultural field;
  • hydrochemistry and environmental isotopes;
  • multi-level monitoring;
  • groundwater recharge;
  • geologic control


We evaluated sources and pathways of groundwater recharge for a heterogeneous alluvial aquifer beneath an agricultural field, based on multi-level monitoring of hydrochemistry and environmental isotopes of a riverside groundwater system at Buyeo, Korea. Two distinct groundwater zones were identified with depth: (1) a shallow oxic groundwater zone, characterized by elevated concentrations of NO3 and (2) a deeper (>10–14 m from the ground surface) sub-oxic groundwater zone with high concentrations of dissolved Fe, silica, and HCO3, but little nitrate. The change of redox zones occurred at a depth where the aquifer sediments change from an upper sandy stratum to a silty stratum with mud caps. The δ18O and δ2H values of groundwater were also different between the two zones. Hydrochemical and δ18O[BOND]δ2H data of oxic groundwater are similar to those of soil water. This illustrates that recharge of oxic groundwater mainly occurs through direct infiltration of rain and irrigation water in the sandy soil area where vegetable cropping with abundant fertilizer use is predominant. Oxic groundwater is therefore severely contaminated by agrochemical pollutants such as nitrate. In contrast, deeper sub-oxic groundwater contains only small amounts of dissolved oxygen (DO) and NO3. The 3H contents and elevated silica concentrations in sub-oxic groundwater indicate a somewhat longer mean residence time of groundwater within this part of the aquifer. Sub-oxic groundwater was also characterized by higher δ18O and δ2H values and lower d-excess values, indicating significant evaporation during recharge. We suggest that recharge of sub-oxic groundwater occurs in the areas of paddy rice fields where standing irrigation and rain water are affected by strong evaporation, and that reducing conditions develop during subsequent sub-surface infiltration. This study illustrates the existence of two groundwater bodies with different recharge processes within an alluvial aquifer. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.