The Sources and Budget for Dissolved Sulfate in a Fractured Carbonate Aquifer, Southern Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico, USA


Climate change in the SW USA is likely to involve drier conditions and higher surface temperatures. In order to better understand the evolution of water chemistry and the sources of aqueous SO4 in these semi-arid settings, chemical and S isotope compositions were determined of springs, groundwater, and bedrock associated with a Permian fractured carbonate aquifer located in the southern Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico, USA. The results suggest that the evolution of water chemistry in the semi-arid carbonate aquifer is mainly controlled by dedolomitization of bedrock, which was magnified by increasing temperature and increasing dissolution of gypsum/anhydrite along the groundwater flow path. The δ34S of dissolved SO4 in spring and groundwater samples varied from +9.0‰ to +12.8‰, reflecting the mixing of SO4 from the dissolution of Permian gypsum/anhydrite (+12.3‰ to +13.4‰) and oxidation of sulfide minerals (-24.5‰ to -4.2‰). According to S isotope mass balance constraints, the contribution of sulfide-derived SO4 was considerable in the High Mountain recharge areas, accounting for up to ~10% of the total SO4 load. However, sulfide weathering decreased in importance in the lower reaches of the watershed. A smaller SO4 input of ~2-4% was contributed by atmospheric wet deposition. This study implies that the δ34S variation of SO4 in semi-arid environments can be complex, but that S isotopes can be used to distinguish among the different sources of weathering. Here it was found that H2SO4 dissolution due to sulfide oxidation contributes up to 5% of the total carbonate weathering budget, while most of the SO4 is released from bedrock sources during dedolomitization.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Atmospheric wet deposition; Carbonate aquifer; Carbonate weathering; Dedolomitization; Fractured carbonates; High mountains; Isotope compositions; Isotope mass; New Mexico; Permian; Recharge area; Semi arid; Semi-arid environments; Sulfide oxidation; Surface temperatures; Water chemistry; Aquifers; Budget control; Carbonation; Climate change; Dissolution; Groundwater flow; Groundwater resources; Isotopes; Landforms; Sulfur compounds; Weathering; Hydrochemistry; aquifer; bedrock; chemical weathering; hydrogeochemistry; mass balance; spring water; sulfate; wet deposition; Sacramento Mountains [New Mexico]; United States

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2012 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Aug 2012