Geophysics for USGS Groundwater/Surface Water Interaction Studies

Science Center Objects

Understanding the interaction of groundwater and surface water is essential to water managers and hydrologists for the development of effective water-resource policy, protection, and management. The USGS conducts applied research to evaluate the use of new or emerging hydrogeophysical tools and methods to improve our understanding of groundwater/surface-water exchange.

Overview

Understanding the interaction of groundwater and surface water is essential to water managers and hydrologists for the development of effective water-resource policy, protection, and management. Groundwater/surface water interactions include the exchange of fluids and solutes, which can affect water quality and water supply. Groundwater is a major source of water to streams, lakes, and wetlands; surface water can also recharge (replenish) groundwater supplies.

Traditional methods of collecting groundwater/surface-water exchange data can be labor intensive. The effects of groundwater/surface-water exchange can occur on a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Various methods of data collection apply to fundamentally different areas and time periods. Conditions at the local and regional scale are often characterized based on measurements made at a few individual points. However, useful predictions based on point measurements are difficult because the characteristics of groundwater/surface water exchange can vary over time and across a site or region.

 

Applied Research

thermal infrared image indicating groundwater discharging into surface water and mixing

Infrared image indicates water temperature, where warmer temperatures are represented as yellow and cooler temperatures as purple. The image presents an area where a relatively warm groundwater seep is discharing along the edge of a relatively cooler stream, and the water is mixing. The temperature range displayed is approximately 1 to 8 degrees Celsius. The area at the center of the image is about 2 meters across.

The USGS conducts applied research projects to evaluate the use of new or emerging hydrogeophysical tools and methods to improve our understanding of groundwater/surface-water exchange. Methods based on electrical, thermal, and physical properties of exchange zones can efficiently locate and quantify interactions between groundwater and surface water. This spatially distributed information can tie point measurements to larger processes controlling flow and transport. As a result, we are better able to understand and forecast movement of water between groundwater and surface-water bodies and associated changes in water quality and quantity.

Recent projects have focused on groundwater/surface-water exchange evaluation in:

  • zones particularly sensitive to climate change,
  • areas of threatened aquatic habitat, and
  • the reactive streambed.

 

Types of Equipment, Tools, and Methods Used in Recent Branch Applied Research:

 

Biblography of Selected Recent Publications

Selected bibliography of recent USGS publications on geophysics for USGS groundwater/surface-water interaction studies.

 

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