Isotope data and major ion chemistry were used to identify aquifer recharge mechanisms and geochemical evolution of groundwaters along the US–Mexico border. Local recharge originates as precipitation and occurs during winter through preferential infiltration pathways along the base of the Gila Range. This groundwater is dominated by Na–Cl of meteoric origin and is highly concentrated due to the dissolution of soluble salts accumulated in the near-surface. The hydrochemical evolution of waters in the irrigated floodplain is controlled by Ca–Mg–Cl/Na–Cl-type Colorado River water. However, salinity is increased through evapotranspiration, precipitation of calcite, dissolution of accumulated soil salts, de-dolomitization, and exchange of aqueous Ca2+
for adsorbed Na+
. The Na–Cl-dominated local recharge flows southwest from the Gila Range and mixes with the Ca–Mg–Cl/Na–Cl-dominated floodplain waters beneath the Yuma and San Luis Mesas. Low 3
H suggests that recharge within the Yuma and San Luis Mesas occurred at least before the 1950s, and 14
C data are consistent with bulk residence times up to 11,500 uncorrected 14
C years before present. Either the flow system is not actively recharged, or recharge occurs at a significantly lower rate than what is being withdrawn, leading to aquifer overdraft and deterioration.
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