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River Sediment Salt-load Detection Using a Water-borne Transient Electromagnetic System

Publisher –
2005 Elsevier B.V., Journal of Applied Geophysics 58 (2005) 29– 44.

Authors –
Brian Barretta, Graham Heinsona, CRC LEME, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide SA, Australia;
Michael Hatch, Zonge Engineering and Research Organisation, Welland SA, Australia;
Andrew Telfer, Australian Water Environments, Norwood SA, Australia

Paper – [pdf] River_sediment_salt-load_detection

The salinisation of major river systems in Australia, and in other countries, is primarily determined by the upward movement of saline water from regional aquifers into the river. The migration has been accelerated due to irrigation schemes and farming practices that have changed regional hydraulic gradients driving saline-water in aquifers towards the major drainage points in the landscape. In this paper, we describe results from a transient electromagnetic (TEM) system that has been deployed to monitor the influx of saline water through sub-riverbed sediments. The deployment was a floating arrangement of a commercial fast sampling (high-resolution) TEM system that is sensitive to shallow (b50 m depth) resistivity variations. The technique has been
extensively trialed around the River Murray town of Waikerie in South Australia. An initial series of surveys along a 40 km section of river showed a range of sub-riverbed resistivities between 1 and 20 Vm, with a top layer of about 10–15 Vm closely following the water depth. Regions of high-resistivity in the riverbed sediments correlated well with saline-aquifer borehole pumping locations, indicating a localized drawdown of fresher river water. Low-resistivity anomalies have been interpreted as regions of saline water influx into the river. The technique is now used for routine mapping in Australia, with over 800 km of the Murray surveyed, and has potential application to other major world river systems.