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A field comparison of multiple techniques to quantify groundwater - surface-water interactions

January 1, 2015

Groundwater–surface-water (GW-SW) interactions in streams are difficult to quantify because of heterogeneity in hydraulic and reactive processes across a range of spatial and temporal scales. The challenge of quantifying these interactions has led to the development of several techniques, from centimeter-scale probes to whole-system tracers, including chemical, thermal, and electrical methods. We co-applied conservative and smart reactive solute-tracer tests, measurement of hydraulic heads, distributed temperature sensing, vertical profiles of solute tracer and temperature in the stream bed, and electrical resistivity imaging in a 450-m reach of a 3rd-order stream. GW-SW interactions were not spatially expansive, but were high in flux through a shallow hyporheic zone surrounding the reach. NaCl and resazurin tracers suggested different surface–subsurface exchange patterns in the upper ⅔ and lower ⅓ of the reach. Subsurface sampling of tracers and vertical thermal profiles quantified relatively high fluxes through a 10- to 20-cm deep hyporheic zone with chemical reactivity of the resazurin tracer indicated at 3-, 6-, and 9-cm sampling depths. Monitoring of hydraulic gradients along transects with MINIPOINT streambed samplers starting ∼40 m from the stream indicated that groundwater discharge prevented development of a larger hyporheic zone, which progressively decreased from the stream thalweg toward the banks. Distributed temperature sensing did not detect extensive inflow of ground water to the stream, and electrical resistivity imaging showed limited large-scale hyporheic exchange. We recommend choosing technique(s) based on: 1) clear definition of the questions to be addressed (physical, biological, or chemical processes), 2) explicit identification of the spatial and temporal scales to be covered and those required to provide an appropriate context for interpretation, and 3) maximizing generation of mechanistic understanding and reducing costs of implementing multiple techniques through collaborative research.

Publication Year 2015
Title A field comparison of multiple techniques to quantify groundwater - surface-water interactions
DOI 10.1086/679738
Authors Ricardo González-Pinzón, Adam S Ward, Christine E Hatch, Adam N. Wlostowski, Kamini Singha, Michael N. Gooseff, Roy Haggerty, Judson Harvey, Olaf A Cirpka, James T Brock
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Freshwater Science
Index ID 70187156
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Eastern Branch