Incised channels are common features in many agricultural watersheds, but the effects of channel incision on riparian water table conditions have been poorly documented. In this study, we evaluate the water table fluctuations in the floodplain near an incised stream (Walnut Creek, Iowa) and investigate the roles that channel incision and variable recharge play in modifying the water table configuration in the floodplain. Groundwater flows from higher landscape positions towards Walnut Creek under hydraulic gradients that were steepest near the upland/floodplain contact and in the near-stream riparian zone. Annually, water table fluctuations on the floodplain were greatest in wells located 30 m from the creek, midway between the creek and upland. Water levels monitored continuously during a runoff event indicated that bank storage was confined to a narrow zone adjacent to the channel. A steady-state, one-dimensional analytical model was developed to describe the shape of the water table surface near an incised stream and evaluate how variable groundwater recharge and channel bed lowering has affected the shape of the water table surface. Results from this study have implications for managing the riparian buffers of incised streams with successful establishment dependent upon matching buffer vegetation to riparian water table conditions. ?? 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Water table fluctuations near an incised stream, Walnut Creek, Iowa