Articles | Volume 14, issue 7
02 Jul 2010
 | 02 Jul 2010

Effect of the spatial distribution of physical aquifer properties on modelled water table depth and stream discharge in a headwater catchment

C. Gascuel-Odoux, M. Weiler, and J. Molenat

Abstract. Water table depth and its dynamics on hillslopes are often poorly predicted despite they control both water transit time within the catchment and solute fluxes at the catchment outlet. This paper analyses how relaxing the assumption of lateral homogeneity of physical properties can improve simulations of water table depth and dynamics. Four different spatial models relating hydraulic conductivity to topography have been tested: a simple linear relationship, a linear relationship with two different topographic indexes, two Ks domains with a transitional area. The Hill-Vi model has been modified to test these hypotheses. The studied catchment (Kervidy-Naizin, Western France) is underlain by schist crystalline bedrock. A shallow and perennial groundwater highly reactive to rainfall events mainly develops in the weathered saprolite layer. The results indicate that (1) discharge and the water table in the riparian zone are similarly predicted by the four models, (2) distinguishing two Ks domains constitutes the best model and slightly improves prediction of the water table upslope, and (3) including spatial variations in the other parameters such as porosity or rate of hydraulic conductivity decrease with depth does not improve the results. These results underline the necessity of better investigations of upslope areas in hillslope hydrology.