Streaming potential and groundwater contamination

  • Baker Simon S. (School of Geosciences, Monash University) ;
  • Cull James P. (School of Geosciences, Monash University)
  • Published : 2004.02.01


Measurements of streaming potential can provide a means for the detection and quantification of contaminants in groundwater prior to remediation. However, laboratory determinations of specific electrolyte properties are required for an adequate analysis of the hydraulic gradient in complex situations. Data obtained for the King River in Tasmania confirm a linear relationship linking streaming potential data and hydraulic gradients. Laboratory samples at low concentration (0.001M KCl) indicate values in the range 20-80 mV/cm of water pressure, while for higher concentrations (0.01M KCl) values are less than 25 mV/cm. Similar ion concentrations are observed in the King River, consistent with field correlations indicating values for streaming potential close to 15 mV/cm. In-situ fluid samples are required for more detailed analysis of local anomalies that may be associated with variations in recharge and migration of contaminants.


  1. ANZECC (Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council), 2000, Australian Guidelines for Water Quatlity Monitoring and Reporting
  2. Baker, S.F. and McPhail, D.C., 1998, Contaminant flow in river banks: King River, Tasmania. 14th Australian Geological Convention: Geological Society of Australia Abstracts, 49, 17
  3. Bear, J., 1972, Dynamics of Fluids in Porous Media: Dover Publications, Inc
  4. de Blas, A., 1992, Environmental Effects of Mount Lyell Operations on Macquarie Harbour and Strahan: MA thesis, University of Tasmania
  5. Blowes, D.W., Reardon, E.J., Jambor, J.L., and Cherry, J.A., 1991, The formation and potential importance of cemented layers in inactive sulfide mine tailings: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 55, 965-978
  6. Bogoslovsky, V.V., and Ogilvy, A.A., 1972, The study of streaming potentials on fissured media models: Geophysical Prospecting, 20, 109-117
  7. Bogoslovsky, V.V., and Ogilvy, A.A., 1973, Deformations of natural electric fields near drainage structures: Geophysical Prospecting, 21, 716-723
  8. Bomer, F.D., Schopper, J.R. and Weller, A., 1996, Evaluation of transport and storage properties in the soil and groundwater zone from induced polarization measurements: Geophysical Prospecting, 44, 583-602
  9. Corwin, R.F., and Hoover, D.B., 1979, The self potential method in geothermal exploration: Geophysics, 44, 226-245
  10. Cull, J.P., 1985, Self potential and current channelling: Geophysical Prospecting, 33, 460-467
  11. Fitterman, D.V., 1979, Calculations of self potential anomalies near vertical contacts: Geophysics, 44, 195-205
  12. Ishido, T., and Mizutani, M., 1981, Experimental and theoretical basis of electrokinetic phenomena in rock-water systems and its application to geophysics: Joumal of Geophysical Research, 86, 1763-1774
  13. Jouniaux, L., and Pozzi, J.-P., 1995, Permeability dependence of streaming potential in rocks for various Buid conductivities: Geophysical Research Letters, 22, 485-488
  14. Karlik G., and Ali Kaya, M., 2001, Investigation of groundwater contamination using electrical and electromagnetic methods at an open waste-disposal site: a case study from Isparta, 'Turkey: Environmental Geology, 40, 725-731
  15. Koehnlcen L., 1997, Mount Lyell Remediation Research and Demonstration Program. National Office of the Supervising Scientist, Canberra, Report 126
  16. Sato, M., and Mooney, H.M., 1960, The electrochemical mechanism of sulphide self potentials: Geophysics, 25, 226-249
  17. Sill, W.R., 1983, Self-potential modeling from primary flows: Geophysics, 48,76-86
  18. Taylor, J.R., Weaver, T.R., McPhail, D.C., and Murphy, N.C., 1996, Characterisation of Mine Tailings in the King River System and Delta and evaluation of their impact on local water quality: Mt Lyell Remediation Research and DemonstrationProject, Office of the Supervising Scientist, Canberra, Report 105
  19. Telford, W.ML, Geldart, L.R, Sheriff, R.E., 1995, Applied Geophysics, 2nd Edition: Cambridge University Press