Delineating and Quantifying Ground Water Discharge Zones Using Streambed Temperatures



Streambed temperature mapping, hydraulic testing using minipiezometers, and geochemical analyses of interstitial water of the streambed were used to delineate the pattern of ground water discharge in a sandy streambed and to develop a flux-based conceptual model for ground water/surface water interactions. A new and simple empirical method was used to relate fluxes obtained from minipiezometer data to streambed temperatures. The relationship allowed flux to be calculated at locations where only streambed temperature measurements were made. Slug testing and potentiomanometer measurements at 34 piezometers indicated ground water discharge ranged from 0.03 to 446 L/m2/day (and possibly as high as 7060 L/m2/day) along a 60 m long by 11 to 14 m wide reach of river. Complex but similar plan-view patterns of flux were calculated for both summer and winter using hundreds of streambed temperatures measured on a 1 by 2 m grid. The reach was dominated by ground water discharge and 5% to 7% of the area accounted for ∼20% to 24% of the total discharge. < 12% of the total area consisted of recharge zones or no-discharge zones. A conceptual model for ground water/surface water interactions consisting of five different behaviors was developed based on the magnitude and direction of flux across the surface of the streambed. The behaviors include short-circuit discharge (e.g., high-flow springs), high discharge (e.g., preferential flowpaths), low to moderate discharge, no discharge (e.g., horizontal hyporheic or ground water flow), and recharge. Geological variations at depth played a key role in determining which type of flow behavior occurred in the streambed.