Well water temperatures are often collected simultaneously with water levels; however, temperature data are generally considered only as a water quality parameter and are not utilized as an environmental tracer. In this paper, water levels and seasonal temperatures are used to estimate hydraulic conductivities in a stream-aquifer system. To demonstrate this method, temperatures and water levels are analyzed from six observation wells along an example study site, the Russian River in Sonoma County, California. The range in seasonal ground water temperatures in these wells varied from < 0.2??C in two wells to ???8??C in the other four wells from June to October 2000. The temperature probes in the six wells are located at depths between 3.5 and 7.1 m relative to the river channel. Hydraulic conductivities are estimated by matching simulated ground water temperatures to the observed ground water temperatures. An anisotropy of 5 (horizontal to vertical hydraulic conductivity) generally gives the best fit to the observed temperatures. Estimated conductivities vary over an order of magnitude in the six locations analyzed. In some locations, a change in the observed temperature profile occurred during the study, most likely due to deposition of fine-grained sediment and organic matter plugging the streambed. A reasonable fit to this change in the temperature profile is obtained by decreasing the hydraulic conductivity in the simulations. This study demonstrates that seasonal ground water temperatures monitored in observation wells provide an effective means of estimating hydraulic conductivities in alluvial aquifers.
Additional publication details
Estimation of hydraulic conductivity in an alluvial system using temperatures