Albrecht Leis, Senior Scientist
Hermann Stadler, Senior Scientist
GRAZ, AUSTRIA — We used the Picarro isotopic water analyzer in a project financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology. High in the Austrian Alps our team (from the Joanneum Research Institute of Water Resources Management) installed a Picarro stable isotope analyzer at one of the largest karst springs in the country. The spring is one of the primary water supply sources for Vienna. The team used the analyzer to monitor real-time isotope changes in the karst water - for the first time ever.
The project is among the first in the world to measure isotopic variations in a remote mountainous area on a real-time basis. Snow melt is the major driving force in the alpine area for the recharge of springs. The response of the isotopic oxygen and hydrogen content measured in water helps to characterize the dynamics of snow melt water during its transport through the underground and to calculate the portions of young snow melt water and older water being stored over longer time in the spring discharge.
The project would not have been possible without the technological innovation of Picarro. The long-term stability of Picarro's water analyzers and reduced need for calibration maintenance has made long-term unattended observations possible and cost effective. Due to this innovative project an easy monitoring and managing of the Picarro Isotopic Water Analyzer via the Internet and with confidence in the precision and reliability of the measured data became possible.
This project could play a critical role in both understanding water flows in important alpine groundwater and in safeguarding the mountainous nation's water supply. The Joanneum scientists are using the analyzer to study a variety of details, including rate of the annual snowpack melt, isotopic differences within the meltwater, impact of rainfall, and how contaminants introduced into the karst would spread through the system and at what concentrations.