ABSTRACT

Exchanges of groundwater and surface-water are fundamental to a wide range of water-supply and water-quality management issues but challenging to map beyond the reach scale. Waterborne gradient self-potential (SP) measurements are directly sensitive to water flow through riverbed sediments and can be used to infer exchange locations, direction (gain versus loss), scale, and relative changes, but to date applications to river corridor hydrology are limited. Numerical modeling and field experiments were therefore performed herein, each emphasizing waterborne gradient SP logging for identifying and locating focused vertical groundwater discharge (surface-water gain) and recharge (surface-water loss) in a river. Two and three-dimensional numerical models were constructed to simulate the polarities, appearances, and peak amplitudes of streaming-potential and electric-field anomalies on a riverbed and in the surface-water that were attributable to steady-state vertical fluxes of groundwater through high-permeability conduits in the riverbed. Effects of varied hydraulic length-scale of exchange and surface-water depth were tested through numerical modeling. Modeling results aided in data acquisition and interpretation for three repeated field experiments performed along a 1.5–2.0 km reach of the Quashnet River in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where focused, meter-scale groundwater discharges occur at discrete locations within otherwise ubiquitous and more diffuse groundwater upwelling conditions. Strong gradient SP anomalies were repeatedly measured in the Quashnet River at previously confirmed locations of focused groundwater discharge, showing the efficacy of waterborne gradient SP logging in identifying and characterizing groundwater/surface water exchange dynamics at multiple river network scales.

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