Characterizing physical properties of streambed interface sediments using in situ complex electrical conductivity measurements

Water Resources Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

Streambed sediment physical properties such as surface area, are difficult to quantify in situ but exert a high‐level control on a wide range of biogeochemical processes and sorption of contaminants. We introduce the use of complex electrical conductivity (CC) methods (also known as spectral induced polarization (SIP)) that measure both real and imaginary conductivity to non‐invasively and efficiently characterize shallow streambed sediments. We explore the method through synthetic modeling, laboratory, and field measurements to demonstrate the sensitivity of imaginary conductivity to sediment surface area, controlled in part by fine‐grained iron oxides produced by anoxic groundwater discharge. Laboratory measurements verify expected relationships between CC parameters and sediment properties. Synthetic modeling using a 1D analytical model illustrates the influence of water layer depth and conductivity on the field CC measurements made at the streambed‐stream water interface. Specifically, the inverted sediment imaginary conductivity is less impacted by uncertainty in the water layer depth and conductivity relative to the real conductivity and phase shift. Field CC measurements along a landfill‐impacted river reveal discrete streambed zones with enhanced bulk surface area generally corresponding to anoxic groundwater discharges zones with high concentrations of fine‐grained iron oxide precipitates.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Characterizing physical properties of streambed interface sediments using in situ complex electrical conductivity measurements
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1029/2020WR027995
Edition Online First
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) WMA - Earth System Processes Division
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