Eolian transport, saline lake basins, and groundwater solutes


  • Warren W. Wood,

  • Ward E. Sanford


Eolian processes associated with saline lakes are shown to be important in determining solute concentration in groundwater in arid and semiarid areas. Steady state mass balance analyses of chloride in the groundwater at Double Lakes, a saline lake basin in the southern High Plains of Texas, United States, suggest that approximately 4.5 × 105 kg of chloride is removed from the relatively small (4.7 km2) basin floor each year by deflation. This mass enters the groundwater down the wind gradient from the lake, degrading the water quality. The estimates of mass transport were independently determined by evaluation of solutes in the unsaturated zone and by solute mass balance calculations of groundwater flux. Transport of salts from the lake was confirmed over a short term (2 years) by strategically placed dust collectors. Results consistent with those at Double Lake were obtained from dune surfaces collected upwind and downwind from a sabkha near the city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The eolian transport process provides an explanation of the degraded groundwater quality associated with the 30–40 saline lake basins on the southern half of the southern High Plains of Texas and New Mexico and in many other arid and semiarid areas.