Springs along the south rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, are important ecological and cultural resources in Grand Canyon National Park and are discharge points for regional and local aquifers of the Coconino Plateau. This study evaluated the applicability of electrical resistance (ER) sensors for measuring diffuse, low-stage (<1.0 cm) intermittent and ephemeral flow in the steep, rocky spring-fed tributaries of the south rim. ER sensors were used to conduct a baseline survey of spring flow timing at eight sites in three spring-fed tributaries in Grand Canyon. Sensors were attached to a nearly vertical rock wall at a spring outlet and were installed in alluvial and bedrock channels. Spring flow timing data inferred by the ER sensors were consistent with observations during site visits, with flow events recorded with collocated streamflow gauging stations and with local precipitation gauges. ER sensors were able to distinguish the presence of flow along nearly vertical rock surfaces with flow depths between 0.3 and 1.0 cm. Laboratory experiments confirmed the ability of the sensors to monitor the timing of diffuse flow on impervious surfaces. A comparison of flow patterns along the stream reaches and at springs identified the timing and location of perennial and intermittent flow, and periods of increased evapotranspiration.
Additional publication details
Electrical resistance sensors record spring flow timing, Grand Canyon, Arizona