The NSS Bulletin - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 48 Number 2: 54-61 - December 1986

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Groundwater Geochemistry in Warm River Cave, Virginia
Janet S. Herman and Michelle M. Lorah


The processes of CO2 outgassing, mixing of two carbonate waters, and calcite precipitation and dissolution define the chemical character of groundwater in Warm River Cave, Virginia. The compositions of the warm, cold, and mixed streams inside the cave are distinctive. The mixed stream is formed by the mixing of the warm stream, fed by a thermal spring, and the cold stream, fed by shallow carbonate groundwater. The water is always supersaturated wtih respect to CO2 even relative to the elevated PCO2 of the restricted cave atmosphere. Loss of CO2 along the flow path drives the solution to supersatureation with respect to calcite. Physical evidence for calcite precipitation exists in the rimstone dams observed inside the cave. Greatest supersaturation with respect to calcite occurs during low-flow conditions in the summer when the cold shallow groundwater causes the least dilution of the concentrated thermal water inside the cave.

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