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Temporal responses of groundwater-surface water exchange to successive storm events

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>13/12/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Water Resources Research
Issue number2
Volume51
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)1112-1126
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date23/02/15
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Groundwater-surface water exchange within the hyporheic zone is widely recognized as a key mechanism controlling the fate of nutrients within catchments. In gaining river systems, groundwater surface water interactions are constrained by upwelling groundwater but there is increasing evidence that a rapid rise in river stage during storm events can result in a temporary reversal of vertical hydraulic gradients, leading to surface water infiltration into the subsurface and supply of surface-borne reactive solutes to this biogeochemically active interface. At a UK study site, using logged hydraulic heads in the surface water, riverbed, and riverbanks and logged electrical conductivity at multiple depths in the riverbed we show that storm events can lead to a temporary reversal of vertical hydraulic gradient with mixing evident up to 30 cm beneath the riverbed. Cross-channel variability is evident, with the center of the channel consistently having shorter reversals of hydraulic gradient, compared to the channel margins. The direction of shallow subsurface riverbank flow at the site is also reactive to storm events, temporarily aligning with the surface flow direction and then reverting back to pre-event conditions. Such a transition of flow paths during events is also likely to lead to expansion of lateral hyporheic exchange. This study provides evidence that storm events can be a key driver of enhanced hyporheic exchange in gaining river systems, which may support nutrient reactions beyond the duration of event-driven change. Our observations demonstrate the dynamic nature of the hyporheic zone, which should be considered when evaluating its biogeochemical function.

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Copyright 2015 American Geophysical Union.