Simulations of infiltration during three ephemeral streamflow events in a coarse-grained alluvial channel overlying a less permeable basin-fill layer were conducted to determine the relative contribution of transient infiltration at the onset of streamflow to cumulative infiltration for the event. Water content, temperature, and piezometric measurements from 2.5-m vertical profiles within the alluvial sediments were used to constrain a variably saturated water flow and heat transport model. Simulated and measured transient infiltration rates at the onset of streamflow were about two to three orders of magnitude greater than steady state infiltration rates. The duration of simulated transient infiltration ranged from 1.8 to 20 hours, compared with steady state flow periods of 231 to 307 hours. Cumulative infiltration during the transient period represented 10 to 26% of the total cumulative infiltration, with an average contribution of approximately 18%. Cumulative infiltration error for the simulated streamflow events ranged from 9 to 25%. Cumulative infiltration error for typical streamflow events of about 8 hours in duration in is about 90%. This analysis indicates that when estimating total cumulative infiltration in coarse-grained ephemeral stream channels, consideration of the transient infiltration at the onset of streamflow will improve predictions of the total volume of infiltration that may become groundwater recharge. Copyright 2006 by the American Geophysical Union.
Additional publication details
Relative contributions of transient and steady state infiltration during ephemeral streamflow