Stream water quality in acid sensitive UK upland areas; an example of potential water quality remediation based on groundwater manipulation.
- 1Institute of Hydrology, Maclean Building, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, OXON, OX10 8BB.
- 2Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Bangor Research Unit, University College, Deniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd, N. Wales, LL57 2UP.
Abstract. The patterns of variation in water quality for an acidic stream draining plantation forest overlying acidic and acid sensitive gley soils with shale and slate bedrock changed following the introduction of a 45 m deep borchole near to the stream. During drilling, air flushing of debris from the borehole cleared fracture routes for groundwater penetration to the stream via the stream bed. Consequently, there were and there remain marked increases in pH, alkalinity and calcium concentrations in the stream water. The extent of this water quality improvement varies according to flow. Under extreme highfiow conditions, most of the stream water is supplied from near surface soil water sources and acidic stream waters (pH about 4.2) result. Under baseflow conditions, the stream water pH is about 7.0 upstream and about 7.5 downstream of the borehole. Under intermediate flow conditions, the improvement in pH is most marked and values increase from around 5 to around 6.3. For acid sensitive 'hard rock' areas such as those studied here, the bedrock has frequently been assumed to be both impermeable and low in base cations. This study illustrates that this view may be incorrect, and that groundwater may provide an important modifier of streamwater quality, at least for slate and shale dominated hard rock areas. Indeed, the work demonstrates clearly the potential for water quality remediation through groundwater manipulation.