Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Using heat to characterize streambed water flux variability in four stream reaches

January 1, 2008

Estimates of streambed water flux are needed for the interpretation of streambed chemistry and reactions. Continuous temperature and head monitoring in stream reaches within four agricultural watersheds (Leary Weber Ditch, IN; Maple Creek, NE; DR2 Drain, WA; and Merced River, CA) allowed heat to be used as a tracer to study the temporal and spatial variability of fluxes through the streambed. Synoptic methods (seepage meter and differential discharge measurements) were compared with estimates obtained by using heat as a tracer. Water flux was estimated by modeling one-dimensional vertical flow of water and heat using the model VS2DH. Flux was influenced by physical heterogeneity of the stream channel and temporal variability in stream and ground-water levels. During most of the study period (April–December 2004), flux was upward through the streambeds. At the IN, NE, and CA sites, high-stage events resulted in rapid reversal of flow direction inducing short-term surface-water flow into the streambed. During late summer at the IN site, regional ground-water levels dropped, leading to surface-water loss to ground water that resulted in drying of the ditch. Synoptic measurements of flux generally supported the model flux estimates. Water flow through the streambed was roughly an order of magnitude larger in the humid basins (IN and NE) than in the arid basins (WA and CA). Downward flux, in response to sudden high streamflows, and seasonal variability in flux was most pronounced in the humid basins and in high conductivity zones in the streambed.

Publication Year 2008
Title Using heat to characterize streambed water flux variability in four stream reaches
DOI 10.2134/jeq2006.0448
Authors H.I. Essaid, C.M. Zamora, K. A. McCarthy, J. R. Vogel, J.T. Wilson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Environmental Quality
Index ID 70032127
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program