Simulated tritium concentrations in river waters of the western Lake Taupo catchment, New Zealand with MODPATH particle tracking

M. A. Gusyev, Daniel B. Abrams, M. W. Toews, U. Morgenstern, M. K. Stewart

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We simulated in a previous study tritium concentrations in the river waters of the western Lake Taupo catchment (WLTC) using MODFLOW/MT3DMS model (Gusyev et al., 2013). The model was calibrated to match simulated tritium to measured tritium in river waters at baseflows of the Waihaha, Whanganui, Whareroa, Kuratau and Omori river catchments of the WLTC. Following from this work we now utilized the same MODFLOW model for the WLTC to calculate the pathways of groundwater particles (and their corresponding tritium concentrations) using steady-state particle tracking with MODPATH. In order to simulate baseflow tritium concentrations with MODPATH, transit time distributions (TTDs) such as cumulative frequency distribution (CFD) and probability density function (PDF) are generated with particle tracking for the river networks of the five WLTC catchment outflows. Then, PDFs are used in the convolution integral with tritium concentration time series obtained in the precipitation. The resulting MODPATH tritium concentrations yield a very good match to measured tritium concentrations and are similar to the MT3DMS simulated tritium concentrations, with the greatest variation occurring around the bomb peak. MODPATH and MT3DMS also yield similar Mean Transit Times (MTT) of groundwater contribution to river baseflows, but the actual shape of the TTDs is strikingly different. While both distributions provide valuable information, the methodologies used to derive the TTDs are fundamentally different and hence must be interpreted differently. With the current models setting, only the methodology used with MODPATH provides the true TTD for use with the convolution integral. Author(s) 2014.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3083--3109
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


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