• Radiocarbon Evidence for Holocene Recharge of Ground Water, Western Desert, Egypt

      Haynes, C. V.; Haas, Herbert (American Journal of Science, 1980-01-01)
      During Pleistocene pluvial precipitation was sufficient for the maintenance of groundwater supported lakes and for the accumulation of playa lakes in wind-scoured depressions during the early Holocene pluvial. At places where ground water reaches near to the surface, wells (birs) have been dug and maintained in historic times. These birs have been used as sampling sites for water analyses, including carbon-14 levels, carbon and oxygen stable isotope ratios, tritium concentrations, and chemical data. All the waters from birs analyzed to date produced apparent radiocarbon ages ranging from late historic to early Holocene, and tritium analyses on some of these indicate no recharge during the Atomic age. Sources of error for the radiocarbon analyses, including exchange with atmospheric CO2, respiration by plant roots, and contact with carbonates of considerably older age, were evaluated. None of these factors have such an extreme impact on the measurements as to render the result invalid. Two trends revealed by these data are an increase in apparent age from northwest to southwest and with subsequent extractions at the same site where the hand-dug well was bailed out and sampled four times within two days. We conclude that recharge of shallow ground water occurred in early Holocene time, and some recharge of deeper aquifers may have occurred where infiltration paths permitted. Some recharge occurred in late Holocene (post pluvial) time, but the net trend has been toward hyper-aridity that characterizes the area today.