The interaction of surface water and hyporheic water along the Santa Clara River in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, California, was evaluated by conducting tracer tests and analyzing water-quality data under different flow conditions in October 1999 and May 2000. Tracer and water-quality samples were collected at multiple river and hyporheic sites as well as at the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts Saugus and Valencia Water Reclamation Plants. These water reclamation plants provide the main source of base flow in the river. Rhodamine WT dye was injected into the river to determine river traveltimes and to indicate when Lagrangian water-quality sampling could be performed at each site. Sodium bromide was injected into the river at a constant rate at the water reclamation plants to evaluate the surface-water and shallow ground-water interactions in the hyporheic zone.
In the upper reach of the study area, which extends 2.9 river miles downstream from the Saugus Water Reclamation Plant, traveltime was 3.2 hours during May 2000. In the lower reach, which extends 14.1 river miles downstream from the Valencia Water Reclamation Plant, traveltime was 9.6 hours during October 1999 and 7.1 hours during May 2000. The sodium bromide tracer was detected at both hyporheic locations sampled during October 1999, and at two of the three hyporheic locations sampled during May 2000. On the basis of Rhodamine dye tests, flow curves were constructed from the discharge measurements in the Valencia reach. Flow-curve results indicate net gains in flow throughout most, but not all, of the upper parts of the reach and net losses in flow at the lower part of the reach.
Lagrangian water-quality sampling provides information on the changes in chemistry as the water flows downstream from the water reclamation plants. Along both reaches there is an increase in sulfate (40-60 mg/L in the Saugus reach and 160 mg/L in the Valencia reach) and a decrease in chloride (about 45 mg/L in the Saugus reach and about 10 mg/L in the Valencia reach). The increasing sulfate concentrations are consistent with discharge of higher sulfate ground water into the river. Along both reaches there is a trend of decreasing ammonia and slightly increasing nitrate concentrations. This trend is consistent with nitrification.
Samples were also analyzed for numerous compounds associated with wastewater, but analysis focused on four indicators. Concentrations of wastewater indicators in the Santa Clara River were low and decreased downstream from the reclamation plants.
There is general consistency between the chemical and tracer data collected from the hyporheic and the river-aquifer flow regime within a reach. The water quality at the hyporheic site in a gaining reach of the river resembled that of the local ground water and no wastewater indicators or injected tracers were observed; whereas, the water quality at the hyporheic sites in a losing reach of the river resembled the water quality of the river at the corresponding river site, and injected tracers were observed.