Implications of anthropogenic river stage fluctuations on mass transport in a valley fill aquifer

TitleImplications of anthropogenic river stage fluctuations on mass transport in a valley fill aquifer
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsBoutt, David F., and Fleming Brandon J.
JournalWater Resources Research
Date Published2009
Keywordsclimate science center, ground water, stream stage reversals, surface water, transport

In humid regions a strong coupling between surface water features and groundwater systems may exist. In these environments the exchange of water and solute depends primarily on the hydraulic gradient between the reservoirs. We hypothesize that daily changes in river stage associated with anthropogenic water releases (such as those from a hydroelectric dam) cause anomalous mixing in the near-stream environment by creating large hydraulic head gradients between the stream and adjacent aquifer. We present field observations of hydraulic gradient reversals in a shallow aquifer. Important physical processes observed in the field are explicitly reproduced in a physically based two-dimensional numerical model of groundwater flow coupled to a simplistic surface water boundary condition. Mass transport simulations of a conservative solute introduced into the surface water are performed and examined relative to a stream condition without stage fluctuations. Simulations of 20 d for both fluctuating river stage and fixed high river stage show that more mass is introduced into the aquifer from the stream in the oscillating case even though the net water flux is zero. Enhanced transport by mechanical dispersion leads to mass being driven away from the hydraulic zone of influence of the river. The modification of local hydraulic gradients is likely to be important for understanding dissolved mass transport in near-stream aquifer environments and can influence exchange zone processes under conditions of high-frequency stream stage changes.