The suite of measurement methods available to characterize fluxes between groundwater and surface water is rapidly growing. However, there are few studies that examine approaches to design of field investigations that include multiple methods. We propose that performing field measurements in a spatially telescoping sequence improves measurement flexibility and accounts for nested heterogeneities while still allowing for parsimonious experimental design. We applied this spatially telescoping approach in a study of ground water-surface water (GW-SW) interaction during baseflow conditions along Lucile Creek, located near Wasilla, Alaska. Catchment-scale data, including channel geomorphic indices and hydrogeologic transects, were used to screen areas of potentially significant GW-SW exchange. Specifically, these data indicated increasing groundwater contribution from a deeper regional aquifer along the middle to lower reaches of the stream. This initial assessment was tested using reach-scale estimates of groundwater contribution during baseflow conditions, including differential discharge measurements and the use of chemical tracers analyzed in a three-component mixing model. The reach-scale measurements indicated a large increase in discharge along the middle reaches of the stream accompanied by a shift in chemical composition towards a regional groundwater end member. Finally, point measurements of vertical water fluxes -- obtained using seepage meters as well as temperature-based methods -- were used to evaluate spatial and temporal variability of GW-SW exchange within representative reaches. The spatial variability of upward fluxes, estimated using streambed temperature mapping at the sub-reach scale, was observed to vary in relation to both streambed composition and the magnitude of groundwater contribution from differential discharge measurements. The spatially telescoping approach improved the efficiency of this field investigation. Beginning our assessment with catchment-scale data allowed us to identify locations of GW-SW exchange, plan measurements at representative field sites and improve our interpretation of reach-scale and point-scale measurements.
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Spatially telescoping measurements for improved characterization of groundwater-surface water interactions