Testing the reproducibility of active-distributed temperature sensing for measuring groundwater specific discharge beneath a braided river

Alice J. Sai Louie, Leanne K. Morgan, Eddie W. Banks, David Dempsey, Scott Wilson

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Abstract

Braided rivers are a major contributor of groundwater recharge, yet little is known about how recharge rates vary in time. Existing methods for estimating groundwater recharge from rivers (i.e., river loss) are inadequate for studying highly heterogeneous braided river systems at a sufficient spatiotemporal resolution. To do so, active-distributed temperature sensing (A-DTS) is employed, which combines fibre optic temperature measurements with an active heat source, enabling high-resolution quantification of water fluxes. In this study, twelve successive A-DTS surveys were conducted during a 24-hour experiment on a 100 m horizontal subsurface hybrid fibre optic cable installed at 5 m depth beneath a braided river. The experiment was carried out under conditions where the river stage and flow were relatively stable to demonstrate the reproducibility and effectiveness of the A-DTS method for measuring groundwater specific discharge. This foundational work will provide a high level of confidence in the method for future studies aimed at evaluating temporal variations in groundwater recharge. The median groundwater specific discharge values calculated over the 24-hour period had a very narrow range from 3.5 to 4.0 m d−1 across the wetted footprint of the river, which is within the measurement error of the installation (6 %), indicating relatively stable groundwater recharge during the experiment. This provides confidence in the repeatability of the A-DTS method as an effective technology for quantifying river loss over longer time periods, to understand seasonal variability of groundwater recharge in braided river systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130877
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume633
Early online date16 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

Keywords

  • Active-distributed temperature sensing
  • Alluvial aquifer
  • Braided river
  • Groundwater recharge
  • Surface water – groundwater interaction
  • Temperature

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