Summary of the SMART Summer School 2022

11 - 14 October 2022

"Hydrogeology, Water Chemistry and Isotopes"





Chemical and isotopic tracers can be used to unravel biogeochemical and physical processes occuring at every step in the hydrologic cycle. Steps like transport of moisture from the oceans to the landmass, soil infiltration of rain, subsurface biogeochemical interaction of water and soil, and subsurface groundwater flow from land to sea can be characterized by analyzing ions, gases, solutes and their stable and radioactive isotopes which are transported with the water. Especially for the non-visible groundwater which is the main source of drinking water and agricultural irrigation water in many regions of the world, these tracers provide an understanding of the origin, age, evolution and quality of the water. In this way, they help to answer the central questions from the point of view of the water manager - how much water is available, where is it available, what is the quality, and how sustainably can it be produced.

The SS 2022 is aimed at experts and interested parties from industry, government and university, who want to gain a deeper understanding of the role of hydrochemistry and isotope hydrology in groundwater. The course begins with an introduction to the use of tracers in hydrology using some examples showing how to estimate recharge rates of groundwater reservoirs or how to determine the residence times of infiltrated water in the soil. The specialist lectures then go into more details on the (isotope)chemical fundamentals, mathematical approaches , advantages and limitations when applying (isotope) tracer studies in hydrology.

Day 1 will cover water chemistry, field methods and an introduction to stable isotopes. Day 2 includes lectures on the stable isotopes in the hydrologic cycle and nitrate isotopes. On day 3 and 4, radioactive tracers and groundwater residence times are in the focus.


Program overview




Wednesday 12.10.2022








Welcome and Introduction


Tracer Hydrology

Lecture 3

Fundamentals of Isotope Hydrology (II)

Lecture 6

Fundamentals of tracer/isotope dating methods in hydrology

Lecture 9

Tritium and Noble Gas Dating of Young Groundwater, T-3He method for groundwater age dating (II)





Lecture 1

Water Chemistry and Field Sampling (I)

Lecture 4

Stable Isotopes in the Hydrologic Cycle (I)

Lecture 7

Tritium and its role in evaluating young groundwaters

Lecture 10

Hands on training on data handling and calculation of noble gas recharge temperature and T-3He ages.



Lunch Break

Lunch Break

Lunch Break

Lunch Break




Water Chemistry and Field Sampling (II)

Stable Isotopes in the Hydrologic Cycle (II)

Lecture 8

Noble Gas isotopes as hydrologic tracers

Lecture 11

Measurement techniques, practical advise for beginners





Lecture 2

Fundamentals of Isotope Hydrology (I)

Lecture 5

Nitrate Isotopes

Lecture 9

Tritium and Noble Gas Dating of Young Groundwater, T-3He method for groundwater age dating (I)

Lecture 12

Introduction to dating of old groundwater

Summary and Conclusion

About us

The courses are held by experts who have many years of experience in the field of hydrochemistry and isotope hydrology.

Mark Schmidt (GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel)

Topic: Subsurface gas formation/transport/degradation in freshwater aquifers (diagnostic plots/isotope mixing models)

Mark Schmidt is a physical chemist and member of the Marine Biogeochemistry Division of the German research institute GEOMAR. Over the last decades his research interests concentrated on investigating fluid geochemistry in the water column and sediment to reconstruct subsurface biogeochemical processes. Actually, a more applied and industry-related research is in focus, i.e. gas sensor development, under-water mass spectrometry, autonomous sensor platforms.  Recent project activities in the Baltic Sea, Arabian Sea, and Mediterranean Sea are focusing on subsea groundwater investigation. 

Christian Hensen (GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel)

Topic: Introduction to pore water geochemistry in marine sediments (incl. transport/reaction modelling)

Christian Hensen is senior researcher in the Research Unit Marine Geosystems at GEOMAR. He is a marine geochemist with specific focus on fluid geochemistry, early diagenetic processes and modelling of transport-reaction processes in marine sediments. His central interest is to deepen the understanding of how deep-sourced geochemical processes are related to fluid generation and fluid flow.

Thomas Müller (GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel)

Topic: Ocean Aquifer Geochemistry (incl. PhreeqC modeling)

Thomas Müller is a postdoctoral researcher in the marine biogeochemistry group at GEOMAR. He is a hydrogeologist by training and employs a wide range of tools to study the dynamics of groundwater flow. An integral part of his work is numerical groundwater modeling and the application of environmental tracers. Using these, questions on the source of the water or the groundwater residence times can be answered. A longstanding interest is the paleo climate, i.e. the availability of (ground) water in the distant past.
Dr. Robert van Geldern (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg)

Research Interests

  • Isotope hydrology and hydrogeology
  • Light stable isotope geochemistry of water and sediments
  • Method development and analytical chemistry
  • Water chemistry and biogeochemical cycles

László Palcsu (Hungarian Academy of Science)



The summer school organized by GEOMAR and EWA was attended by participants from various Maltesian institutions being in charge of groundwater on Malta and performing hydrological studies world-wide (see List of participants). Among the participants were those who work in the laboratory as analytical technicians, engineers taking hydrological samples and performing sensor measurements at groundwater wells, and those who are more involved in the management and assessment of water resources. The wide range of experience of the participants (BSc degree – Postdoc level) was met with the range of lectures which contained theoretical basics as well as practical application examples.

The overall aim of the summer school was to give a sound overview of the different geochemical and isotopic tracers. This included introducing the various tracers, explaining what influences tracer concentrations and which characteristics are used in hydrology to determine, for example, the origin of precipitation or the residence time of the water. Emphasis was also placed on the need for the right equipment and the accuracy during sampling.

The week was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended. The lectures took place in an open atmosphere, discussions were made possible directly and the coffee breaks were used for further exchange. The premises/infrastructure provided by EWA were perfectly suited for this training course. EWA deserves a big thank you for providing the infrastructure and organizing the event on site.



Participants of the “SMART Summer School, 2022 - Hydrogeology, Water Chemistry and Isotopes”, Malta (credits GEOMAR).