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Groundwater/surface-water interactions along Ellerbe Creek in Durham, North Carolina, 2016–18

October 8, 2019

An assessment of groundwater/surface-water interactions along Ellerbe Creek, a major tributary to upper Falls Lake in Durham County, North Carolina, was conducted from July 2016 to March 2018 to determine if groundwater is a likely source of elevated nitrate input to the stream. Groundwater/surface-water interactions were characterized by synoptic streamflow measurements, groundwater-level monitoring, hydrograph-separation methods, and a continuous streambed temperature survey to aid in the collection and interpretation of water-quality data. A streamflow gain-loss survey identified gaining and losing reaches within the stream and found that surface-water inflow, including that from a treated wastewater outfall, provided much of the streamflow gain within the study reach. Through the use of two hydrograph-separation methods, base flow for the Ellerbe Creek study reach was estimated to be between 14.0 and 17.7 cubic feet per second during the study period, contributing up to 57 percent of mean streamflow, with the remaining contributions coming from surface runoff to the stream. The effluent discharge accounted for most of the estimated base-flow contribution to the stream below the North Durham Water Reclamation Facility outfall. Hydraulic gradients within the groundwater were determined to flow upward and toward the stream during base-flow conditions and reverse during storm events. Nitrate concentrations ranged from below the method detection level to 2.69 milligrams per liter, with the highest concentrations just downstream from the wastewater outfall. Bank seeps and groundwater samples had lower nitrate concentrations than surface-water samples, ranging from below the method detection level to 1.04 milligrams per liter, with the highest concentration at the piezometer within the stream. Results indicate that groundwater is not a large component of streamflow within Ellerbe Creek nor a major source of nitrate within the study reach.

Publication Year 2019
Title Groundwater/surface-water interactions along Ellerbe Creek in Durham, North Carolina, 2016–18
DOI 10.3133/sir20195097
Authors Dominick J. Antolino
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2019-5097
Index ID sir20195097
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization South Atlantic Water Science Center