A conceptual model of the patterns and residence times of groundwater seepage to gaining streams indicates that groundwater seepage originates from sources that are both near and far from the stream. Consequently, the age of groundwater seepage across a stream-channel transect increases from its banks to its center and becomes progressively older with distance downstream. A groundwater flow model and particle-tracking analysis of the Cohansey River Basin in the New Jersey Coastal Plain supports this conceptual model and demonstrates that the orientation of the stream channels with respect to the regional groundwater flow direction, and the heterogeneities of the aquifer and stream-channel patterns, can shift source area locations and distributions of groundwater residence time from those expected. Groundwater samples collected from stream transects were analyzed for nitrogen, representative of widespread agricultural land use in the basin in recent decades, and for chlorofluorocarbons, used to estimate groundwater ages. The patterns of nitrogen concentration and the age of groundwater entering the stream channel corroborate model inferences. The conceptual model of groundwater seepage to streams presented herein is relevant to unconfined aquifer systems with gaining streams and demonstrates how nonpoint-source contaminants are transported to streams by groundwater. Results are useful for the design of programs needed to monitor stream-water quality.
Additional publication details
Evaluating the source and residence times of groundwater seepage to streams, New Jersey Coastal Plain