Evaluation of high-frequency mean streamwater transit-time estimates using groundwater age and dissolved silica concentrations in a small forested watershed

Aquatic Geochemistry
By: , and 

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Abstract

Many previous investigations of mean streamwater transit times (MTT) have been limited by an inability to quantify the MTT dynamics. Here, we draw on (1) a linear relation (r 2 = 0.97) between groundwater 3H/3He ages and dissolved silica (Si) concentrations, combined with (2) predicted streamwater Si concentrations from a multiple-regression relation (R 2 = 0.87) to estimate MTT at 5-min intervals for a 23-year time series of streamflow [water year (WY) 1986 through 2008] at the Panola Mountain Research Watershed, Georgia. The time-based average MTT derived from the 5-min data was ~8.4 ± 2.9 years and the volume-weighted (VW) MTT was ~4.7 years for the study period, reflecting the importance of younger runoff water during high flow. The 5-min MTTs are normally distributed and ranged from 0 to 15 years. Monthly VW MTTs averaged 7.0 ± 3.3 years and ranged from 4 to 6 years during winter and 8–10 years during summer. The annual VW MTTs averaged 5.6 ± 2.0 years and ranged from ~5 years during wet years (2003 and 2005) to >10 years during dry years (2002 and 2008). Stormflows are composed of much younger water than baseflows, and although stormflow only occurs ~17 % of the time, this runoff fraction contributed 39 % of the runoff during the 23-year study period. Combining the 23-year VW MTT (including stormflow) with the annual average baseflow for the period (~212 mm) indicates that active groundwater storage is ~1,000 mm. However, the groundwater storage ranged from 1,040 to 1,950 mm using WY baseflow and WY VW MTT. The approach described herein may be applicable to other watersheds underlain by granitoid bedrock, where weathering is the dominant control on Si concentrations in soils, groundwater, and streamwater.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Evaluation of high-frequency mean streamwater transit-time estimates using groundwater age and dissolved silica concentrations in a small forested watershed
Series title Aquatic Geochemistry
DOI 10.1007/s10498-013-9207-6
Volume 20
Issue 2-3
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) South Atlantic Water Science Center
Description 20 p.
First page 183
Last page 202
Country United States
State Georgia
Other Geospatial Panola Mountain Research Watershed
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N