Hydrochemistry and stable isotopes revealed focused and diffuse recharge processes in the Sonora River basin, Mexico

Juan Pérez Quezadas*, Yesica Guadalupe Cabrera Sillas, Rogelio Monreal, Miguel Rangel Medina, José Iván Morales Arredondo, Ricardo Sánchez-Murillo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A hydro-geochemical characterization was conducted in the northern part of the Sonora River basin, covering an area of 9400 km2. Equipotential lines indicated that groundwater circulation coincided with the surface water flow direction. Based on the groundwater temperature measured (on average ∼21 °C), only one spring exhibited thermalism (51 °C). Electrical conductivity (160–1750 μS/cm), chloride and nitrate concentrations (>10 and >45 mg/L) imply highly ionized water and anthropogenic pollution. In the river network, δ 18O values revealed a clear modern meteoric origin. Focused recharge occurred mainly from the riverbeds during the rainy season. During the dry season, diffuse recharge was characterized by complex return flows from irrigation, urban, agricultural, mining, and livestock. Drilled wells (>50 m) exhibited a strong meteoric origin from higher elevations during the rainy season with minimal hydrochemical anomalies. Our results contribute to the knowledge of mountain-front and mountain-block recharge processes in a semi-arid and human-altered landscape in northern Mexico, historically characterized by limited hydrogeological data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-65
Number of pages18
JournalIsotopes in Environmental and Health Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

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  • Diffuse recharge
  • Sonora River basin
  • focused recharge
  • groundwater
  • hydrochemistry
  • hydrogen-2
  • isotope hydrology
  • oxygen-18
  • semi-arid environment
  • water management


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