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Focused Groundwater Controlled Feedbacks into the Hyporheic Zone During Baseflow Recession

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Abstract

Groundwater surface water interaction in the hyporheic zone remains an important challenge for water resources management and ecosystem restoration. In heterogeneous stratified glacial sediments, reach-scale environments contain an uneven distribution of focused groundwater flow occurring simultaneously with diffusely discharging groundwater. This results in a variation of stream-aquifer interactions, where focused flow systems are able to temporally dominate exchange processes. The research presented here investigates the direct and indirect influences focused groundwater discharge exerts on the hyporheic zone during baseflow recession. Field results demonstrate that as diffuse sources of groundwater deplete during baseflow recession, focused groundwater discharge remains constant. During baseflow recession the hyporheic zone is unable to expand, while the high nitrate concentration from focused discharge changes the chemistry of the stream. The final result is a higher concentration of nitrate in the hyporheic zone as this altered surface water infiltrates into the subsurface. This indirect coupling of focused groundwater discharge and the hyporheic zone is unaccounted for in hyporheic studies at this time. Results indicate important implications for the potential reduction of agricultural degradation of water quality.

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