Freshwater lenses have been identified as having penetrated the shallow regional saline groundwater beneath the Cooper Creek floodplain near Ballera (south-west Queensland). Piezometers were installed to evaluate the major-element chemistry along a floodplain transect from a major waterhole (Goonbabinna) to a smaller waterhole (Chookoo) associated with a sand dune complex. The floodplain consists of 2-7 m of impermeable mud underlain by unconsolidated fluvial sands with a saline watertable. Water-holes have in places scoured into the floodplain. The transect reveals that groundwater recharge takes place through the base of the waterholes at times of flood scour, but not through the floodplain mud. Total dissolved solids rise with distance from the waterhole and independently of the presence of sand dunes. Stable water isotopes (delta H-34 and delta O-18) confirm that recharge is consistent with, and dependant on, monsoonal flooding events. Following floods, the waterholes self-seal and retain water for extended periods, with sulfate-delta S-34 and delta O-18 isotopes suggesting bacterial reduction processes within the hyporheic zone, and limited interaction between the surface water and groundwater during no-flow conditions.
The area occupied by the freshwater lenses (TDS < 5000 mg/L) is locally asymmetrical with respect to the channel flow direction, extending down gradient along distances of similar to 300 m. Crown Copyright (C) 2010 Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved