The Stable Isotopic Variations and the Hydrogeology of the Coronet Peak Skifield, Queenstown.
Thesis DisciplineEngineering Geology
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
This study aims to investigate the stable isotopic characteristics of meteoric and ground waters, and to obtain spring flow rates in the Coronet Peak Skifield, Queenstown. Spring flows were gathered during the winters of 2008 and 2009, whilst water samples were collected from precipitation, springs, reservoirs and groundwater during July, August and September 2009. The spring flows were examined and the water samples were analysed for δD and δ¹⁸O values using the CF-IRMS at the University of Canterbury. A database has been gathered from all natural water sources to give a local meteoric water line (LMWL) for the area that fits clearly with the global meteoric water line. The LMWL has an R2 value of 0.97 and the equation is δD = 8 δ¹⁸O +10. An understanding of evaporation as it occurs in the water storage reservoirs of the mountain has also been obtained, giving rise to a local evaporation line. The stable isotope ratios of hydrogen and oxygen within precipitation have been used extensively to characterise the hydrogeology with emphasis on altitude effects, storm duration and variations in storm track trajectories. Of these three phenomena, it is the trajectory of the storm track that is best shown to affect the composition of precipitation in this area. The air masses advancing on the study area from the north being more depleted in their isotopic signatures, with approximate δD and δ¹⁸O values of –130‰ and -16‰. The air masses approaching from a southerly direction are more positive in comparison, having approximate δD and δ¹⁸O values of –65‰ and -9‰. The altitude effect in precipitation on the Skifield has led to an altitude gradient being found: for every 100-metre increase in elevation, δ¹⁸O decreases by 0.71‰. However there were some inconsistencies. The influence on precipitation from storm duration is also inconsistent in this area. The R2 values range from 0.14 to 0.99, but this method does not take into account the position of the individual samples. Some samples did not plot in the expected order that is governed by a decrease in stable isotopic ratios with storm duration. The stable isotopic compositions within meteoric waters can be used as tracers of water sources. The isotope date of the springs also infers an altitude effect. The springs gave an altitude gradient of a decrease –0.43‰ with each 100-metre increase in elevation. This indicates that precipitation is the main influence on the stable isotopic composition of the springs in this area. However, data shows differences between the current precipitation and the groundwater compositions, indicating that present precipitation is not flowing from the springs, past precipitation is. The stable isotopic compositions of the springs have also been correlated with groundwater isotope data and suggest the sources of the springs are groundwater dominated. Although some springs compositions indicate an influence by current precipitation. This is shown by a negative stable isotopic trend in the precipitation sampled in August, corresponding with a relatively negative stable isotopic composition in some springs during this time period. Monitoring of spring flows on Coronet Peak have led to an average winter flow rate being established of 26.5 litres per second. Spring flow rates range from 0.25 – 6 litres per second. This monitoring has indicated the springs of the greatest yield that are not already being utilised on the Skifield. It is these springs that should be further investigated as to whether they would provide a sustainable source of water on the mountain. This locally derived water would then be utilised for the purposes of artificial snowmaking and other activities and amenities that are currently operated by NZ Ski on Coronet Peak.