To better understand flow processes, solute-transport processes, and ground-water/surface-water interactions on the Santa Clara River in Ventura County, California, a 24-hour fluorescent-dye tracer study was performed under steady-state flow conditions on a 28-mile reach of the river.
The study reach includes perennial (uppermost and lowermost) subreaches and ephemeral subreaches of the lower Piru Creek and the middle Santa Clara River. Dye was injected at a site on Piru Creek, and fluorescence of river water was measured continuously at four sites and intermittently at two sites. Discharge measurements were also made at the six sites. The time of travel of the dye, peak dye concentration, and time-variance of time-concentration curves were obtained at each site. The long tails of the time-concentration curves are indicative of sources/sinks within the river, such as riffles and pools, or transient bank storage. A statistical analysis of the data indicates that, in general, the transport characteristics follow Fickian theory.
These data and previously collected discharge data were used to calibrate a one-dimensional flow model (DAFLOW) and a solute-transport model (BLTM). DAFLOW solves a simplified form of the diffusion-wave equation and uses empirical relations between flow rate and cross-sectional area, and flow rate and channel width. BLTM uses the velocity data from DAFLOW and solves the advection-dispersion transport equation, including first-order decay.
The simulations of dye transport indicated that (1) ground-water recharge explains the loss of dye mass in the middle, ephemeral, subreaches, and (2) ground-water recharge does not explain the loss of dye mass in the uppermost and lowermost, perennial, subreaches. This loss of mass was simulated using a linear decay term. The loss of mass in the perennial subreaches may be caused by a combination of photodecay or adsorption/desorption.