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Evaluating the relative importance of shallow subsurface flow in a prairie landscape

Cody A. Ross, Genevieve Ali, Samuel Bansah and Janelle R. Laing
Evaluating the relative importance of shallow subsurface flow in a prairie landscape
Vadose Zone Journal (May 2017) 16 (5)


Hydrologic literature on the Northern Great Plains, including the Canadian Prairies, has mainly focused on Hortonian overland flow as the dominant runoff generation mechanism. This study focused on subsurface water movement and its contribution to streamflow in high-latitude, subhumid, prairie landscapes with flat topography. Three "riparian-to-stream" sites were monitored in southeastern Manitoba, Canada, and four hydrologic events (snowmelt triggered and rainfall triggered) were selected for analysis. A dual water sourcing strategy, including conservative and non-conservative tracers, was applied to distinguish the relative importance of event ("new") and pre-event ("old") runoff sources. Surrogate measures of antecedent wetness conditions (AWCs: based on rainfall, snow water equivalent, and soil saturation) data and streamflow and water table fluctuation data were used to identify factors influencing the contributions of different runoff sources. Results showed significant old water contributions during snowmelt- and rainfall-triggered events, especially during the summer season. At an engineered grassland site, decreases in snow cover extent were accompanied by "flashy," high-magnitude stream hydrographs. Larger peak discharge was observed coincident to elevated AWCs at all sites. Travel velocities of surface-applied dye were faster than those of subsurface-applied dye, except for one rainfall-triggered event. Rapid delivery of old water to streams was observed and hypothesized to be the result of macropore flow, piston flow, or transmissivity feedback depending on the season and water table position. Further investigations are recommended to increase our understanding of subsurface runoff generation mechanisms that promote the rapid movement of old water from riparian areas to streams in Canadian Prairie landscapes.

ISSN: 1539-1663
Serial Title: Vadose Zone Journal
Serial Volume: 16
Serial Issue: 5
Title: Evaluating the relative importance of shallow subsurface flow in a prairie landscape
Affiliation: University of Manitoba, Department of Geological Sciences, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Published: 201705
Text Language: English
Publisher: Soil Science Society of America, Madison, WI, United States
Number of pages: 20
References: 85
Accession Number: 2017-042167
Categories: Hydrogeology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 5 tables, sketch map
N50°17'60" - N50°37'00", W96°27'00" - W96°01'60"
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Abstract, Copyright, Soil Science Society of America. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 201723
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