Mountainous regions such as the Central European Alps host considerable karstified or fractured groundwater bodies, which meet many of the demands concerning drinking water supply, hydropower or agriculture. Alpine hydrogeologists are required to describe the dynamics in fractured aquifers in order to assess potential impacts of human activities on water budget and quality. Delineation of catchment areas by means of stable isotopes and hydrochemical data is a well established method in alpine hydrogeology. To achieve reliable results, time series of (at least) one year and spatial and temporal close-meshed data are necessary. In reality, test sites in mountainous regions are often inaccessible due to the danger of avalanches in winter. The aim of our work was to assess a method based on the processes within the carbonic acid system to delineate infiltration areas by means of single datasets consisting of the main hydrochemical parameters of each spring. In three geologically different mountainous environments we managed to classify the investigated springs into four groups. (1) High PCO2 combined with slight super-saturation in calcite, indicating relatively low infiltration areas. (2) Low PCO2 near atmospheric conditions in combination with calcite saturation, which is indicative of relatively high infiltration areas and a fractured aquifer which is not covered by topsoil layers. (3) High PCO2 in combination with sub-saturation in calcite, representing a shallow aquifer with a significant influence of the topsoil layer. (4) The fourth group of waters is characterized by low PCO2 and sub-saturation in calcite, which is interpreted as evidence for a shallow aquifer without significant influence of any hard rock aquifer or topsoil layer. This study shows that CO2-partial pressure can be an ideal natural tracer to estimate the elevation of infiltration areas, especially in non-karstified fractured groundwater bodies.
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