Solute transport processes in flow-event-driven stream–aquifer interaction

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    Abstract

    The interaction between streams and groundwater controls key features of the stream hydrograph and chemograph. Since surface runoff is usually less saline than groundwater, flow events are usually accompanied by declines in stream salinity. In this paper, we use numerical modelling to show that, at any particular monitoring location: (i) the increase in stream stage associated with a flow event will precede the decrease in solute concentration (arrival time lag for solutes); and (ii) the decrease in stream stage following the flow peak will usually precede the subsequent return (increase) in solute concentration (return time lag). Both arrival time lag and return time lag increase with increasing wave duration. However, arrival time lag decreases with increasing wave amplitude, whereas return time lag increases. Furthermore, while arrival time lag is most sensitive to parameters that control river velocity (channel roughness and stream slope), return time lag is most sensitive to groundwater parameters (aquifer hydraulic conductivity, recharge rate, and dispersitivity). Additionally, the absolute magnitude of the decrease in river concentration is sensitive to both river and groundwater parameters. Our simulations also show that in-stream mixing is dominated by wave propagation and bank storage processes, and in-stream dispersion has a relatively minor effect on solute concentrations. This has important implications for spreading of contaminants released to streams. Our work also demonstrates that a high contribution of pre-event water (or groundwater) within the flow hydrograph can be caused by the combination of in-stream and bank storage exchange processes, and does not require transport of pre-event water through the catchment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)363-373
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Volume538
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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