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Demonstrating usefulness of real-time monitoring at streambank wells coupled with active streamgages - Pilot studies in Wyoming, Montana, and Mississippi

June 8, 2012

Groundwater and surface water in many cases are considered separate resources, but there is growing recognition of a need to treat them as a single resource. For example, groundwater inflow during low streamflow is vitally important to the health of a stream for many reasons, including buffering temperature, providing good quality water to the stream, and maintaining flow for aquatic organisms. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has measured stream stage and flow at thousands of locations since 1889 and has the ability to distribute the information to the public within hours of collection, but collecting shallow groundwater data at co-located measuring sites is a new concept. Recently developed techniques using heat as a tracer to quantify groundwater and surface-water exchanges have shown the value of coupling these resources to increase the understanding of the water resources of an area. In 2009, the USGS Office of Groundwater began a pilot study to examine the feasibility and utility of widespread use of real-time groundwater monitoring at streambank wells coupled with real-time surface-water monitoring at active streamgages to assist in understanding the exchange of groundwater and surface water in a cost effective manner.