Several approaches were used to characterize ground water/surface water interactions near the Willamette River - A large (ninth order) river in Oregon, USA. A series of potentiometric surface maps demonstrated the presence of highly dynamic hydraulic gradients between rivers and the adjacent aquifer. Hyporheic zone gradients extended on the order of hundreds of meters. River gains and losses at the river stretch scale (tens of kilometers) were consistent with fluxes implied by the potentiometric surface maps, and apparently reflect regional ground water/surface water interactions. Gains and losses of up to 5-10% of streamflow were observed at this scale. On the river reach scale (1-2 km), gains and losses on the order of 5% of streamflow were interpreted as representing primarily local hyporheic exchange. Isotopic and chemical data collected from shallow hyporheic zone wells demonstrated interaction between regional ground water and river water. The origin of sampled hyporheic zone water ranged from a mixture dominated by regional ground water to water containing 100% river water. The common assumption that ground and river water mix primarily in the river channel is not applicable in this system. Isotopic and chemical data also indicated that significant (nearly complete) vegetative nitrate uptake and/or nitrate reduction occurred in water from 4 of 12 hyporheic zone sites. In these cases, it was primarily nitrate transported to the hyporheic zone in regional ground water that was removed from solution. Isotopes of water and nitrate indicated that hyporheic zone water sampled at two sites was composed of water originating as river water and demonstrated that significant vegetative nitrate uptake and nitrate reduction occurred along these hyporheic zone flowpaths. Thus, the hyporheic zone may, in some instances, serve to remove nitrate from river water. Additional investigations with chemical tools and microbial enzyme assays were conducted at one hyporheic site. A strong vertical redox gradient was observed, with nitrate-limited denitrification potential in deeper sediment and both nitrification and denitrification potential in shallower sediment. Since nitrogen cycling is strongly affected by redox conditions, nitrogen cycling in the hyporheic zone of this large-river system likely is affected by dynamics of ground water/surface water interactions that control fluxes of nitrogen and other redox species to hyporheic zone sediment.
Additional publication details
Linking hyporheic flow and nitrogen cycling near the Willamette River - A large river in Oregon, USA