Denis Peach, Adam Taylor

The development of a hydrogeological conceptual model of groundwater and surface water flows in the Silala River Basin

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Oceanography

AbstractFrom 1999 a dispute between Bolivia and Chile concerning the status and use of the Silala River developed. In 2016 it was taken before the International Court of Justice. Over time, a key disagreement between the parties emerged, concerning artificial channels in the headwater wetlands of the Silala River in Bolivia and their impact on the river and groundwater discharge from Bolivia to Chile. To quantify this, a numerical groundwater model was developed by Chile, requiring a hydrogeological conceptual model of the Silala River Basin, reviewed here. This focussed on understanding the groundwater system and its interactions with the Silala River. The data and information used to gain this understanding included geological mapping, drilling, satellite imagery interpretation, geophysical surveys, hydrogeochemical analyses, groundwater level monitoring, surface flow monitoring, and groundwater pumping tests. These were focussed along the course of the river and wetlands. A three‐dimensional geological model of the Silala Basin was based on these investigations. The groundwater model area covers the topographic catchment, plus three adjacent closed (endorheic) topographical catchments to the northeast, which together form the groundwater catchment of the Silala River. The main deep regional aquifer is found in ignimbrite pyroclastic rocks and an interbedded alluvial deposit, but secondary perched aquifers on the flanks of the Silala River ravine contribute to the complexity. Although uncertainty remains, the hydrogeological conceptual model describes the main observed features of the system in a scientifically sound and coherent manner, with appropriate detail to support a credible numerical model.This article is categorized under:Science of Water > Hydrological ProcessesEngineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water

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