Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
16 Nov 2006
16 Nov 2006

Characterization of spatial heterogeneity of groundwater-stream water interactions using multiple depth streambed temperature measurements at the reach scale

C. Schmidt, M. Bayer-Raich, and M. Schirmer

Abstract. Streambed temperatures can be easily, accurately and inexpensively measured at many locations. To characterize patterns of groundwater-stream water interaction with a high spatial resolution, we measured 140 vertical streambed temperature profiles along a 220 m section of a small man-made stream. Groundwater temperature at a sufficient depth remains nearly constant while stream water temperatures vary seasonally and diurnally. In summer, streambed temperatures of groundwater discharge zones are relatively colder than downwelling zones of stream water. Assuming vertical flow in the streambed, the observed temperatures are correlated to the magnitude of water fluxes. The water fluxes are then estimated by applying a simple analytical solution of the heat conduction-advection equation to the observed vertical temperature profiles. The calculated water fluxes through the streambed ranged between 455 Lm−2 d−1 of groundwater discharging to the stream and approximately 10 Lm−2 d−1 of stream water entering the streambed. The investigated reach was dominated by groundwater discharge with two distinct high discharge locations accounting for 50% of the total flux on 20% of the reach length.