Relationship between soil and groundwater salinity in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin

  • Parker J. BanksEmail author
  • John C. Banks


Saturated soil paste extracts indicate soluble ions in soil pore water that are available to vegetation. As such, they are thought to accurately describe the relationship between soil and groundwater salinity. To test this assumption, soil and groundwater samples were collected from 575 monitoring wells in saline regions of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB). Samples were analyzed for electrical conductivity (EC) and Cl, Na+, Ca2+, Mg2+, K+, SO42−, and HCO− 3 content. We compared groundwater ionic concentrations to paste extracts derived from matching soils, finding that differences from in situ soil porosity cause saturated pastes to underestimate groundwater salinity. Therefore, we provide pedotransfer functions for accurately calculating groundwater quality from soil data. In addition, we discuss the effects of porosity and soil composition on the saturated paste method, as measured through hydraulic conductivity, saturation percent, and sample lithology. Groundwater salinity may also influence further leaching of salts from soil. As produced water (NaCl brine) spills are common across the sulfate-rich soils of the WCSB, we considered the effects of NaCl on leaching of other ions, finding that influx of Na+ into groundwater is associated with increased sulfate leaching from soil. Therefore, considering the secondary effects of produced water on groundwater quality is essential to spill management.


Saturated paste method Groundwater quality Soil salinity Salt leaching Lithology 



We would like to thank Matrix Solutions Inc. for providing analytical data for this study and encouraging continued improvement in the science of environmental consulting. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers whose feedback greatly improved the quality this manuscript.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Matrix Solutions Inc.CalgaryCanada

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