Organic characterisation of cave drip water by LC-OCD and fluorescence analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Helen Rutlidge
  • Martin S. Andersen
  • Andy Baker
  • Khorshed J. Chinu
  • Catherine N. Jex
  • Christopher E. Marjo
  • Monika Markowska
  • Gabriel C. Rau

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of New South Wales
  • Solid State and Elemental Analysis Unit
  • Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre
  • Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre
  • Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation


Cathedral Cave, Wellington, Australia, is a natural laboratory for studying water movement and geochemical processes in the unsaturated zone by using artificial irrigation to activate drip sites within the cave. Water sampled from two drip sites activated by irrigations carried out in summer 2014 was analysed for dissolved inorganic ions and fluorescent organic matter. The analysis allowed the development of a conceptual flow path model for each drip site. DOM analysis was further complemented by liquid chromatography with organic carbon detection (LC-OCD), applied for the first time to karst drip waters, allowing the characterisation of six organic matter fractions. The differences in organic matter fractions at each drip site are interpreted as a signature of the proposed flow paths. LC-OCD was also compared with parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC) of the fluorescence and good correlations were observed for high molecular weight organic matter. Strong positive correlations were also observed for high molecular weight matter and Cu and Ni. This is suggestive of colloidal transport of Cu and Ni by organic matter with high molecular weight, while small molecular weight colloids were not efficient transporters. LC-OCD uniquely provides information on non-fluorescent organic matter and can be used to further quantify drip water organic matter composition.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-28
Number of pages14
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Early online date1 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas