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Heat, chloride, and specific conductance as ground water tracers near streams

January 1, 2007

Commonly measured water quality parameters were compared to heat as tracers of stream water exchange with ground water. Temperature, specific conductance, and chloride were sampled at various frequencies in the stream and adjacent wells over a 2-year period. Strong seasonal variations in stream water were observed for temperature and specific conductance. In observation wells where the temperature response correlated to stream water, chloride and specific conductance values were similar to stream water values as well, indicating significant stream water exchange with ground water. At sites where ground water temperature fluctuations were negligible, chloride and/or specific conductance values did not correlate to stream water values, indicating that ground water was not significantly influenced by exchange with stream water. Best-fit simulation modeling was performed at two sites to derive temperature-based estimates of hydraulic conductivities of the alluvial sediments between the stream and wells. These estimates were used in solute transport simulations for a comparison of measured and simulated values for chloride and specific conductance. Simulation results showed that hydraulic conductivities vary seasonally and annually. This variability was a result of seasonal changes in temperature-dependent hydraulic conductivity and scouring or clogging of the streambed. Specific conductance fits were good, while chloride data were difficult to fit due to the infrequent (quarterly) stream water chloride measurements during the study period. Combined analyses of temperature, chloride, and specific conductance led to improved quantification of the spatial and temporal variability of stream water exchange with shallow ground water in an alluvial system.

Publication Year 2007
Title Heat, chloride, and specific conductance as ground water tracers near streams
DOI 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2006.00276.x
Authors M.H. Cox, G.W. Su, J. Constantz
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ground Water
Index ID 70032829
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse