Stream and Fluvial Plain Ground Water Interactions: Rescaling Hydrogeologic Thought



Management of near-channel ground water and surface water to maintain stream health and flood plain ecological function requires hydrogeologists to refocus their conceptual models of water exchange between the aquifer and stream. The high hydraulic conductivity fluvial plain directs ground water flow down-plain where it exchanges with the stream channel creating gaining, losing, flow-through, and parallel-flow reaches. The resulting complex flow system requires consideration when profiles representing ground water flowpaths are constructed. In addition to interaction at the scale of the fluvial plain, exchange of ground water and surface water within and immediately adjacent to the stream channel creates hyporheic zones. The physical and bio-geochemical extent of these zones depends on the head distribution and ground water flow directions, stream hydraulics, and channel bed conditions, and magnitudes and distributions of hydrogeologic parameters. Simulated conceptualizations of flow dynamics caused by slight increases in hydraulic potentials at the surface water-stream bed interface indicate stream-ground water mixing could occur to a depth of 1.7 m below the channel. Rescaling of traditional hydrogeologic approaches to include the fluvial plain and channel scale will result in opportunities to expand hydrogeologic research and participate in interdisciplinary research teams attempting to decipher and manage fluvial systems.