The influence of hyporheic fluxes on regional groundwater discharge zones
Abstract. The importance of hyporheic water fluxes induced by hydromorphologic processes at the streambed scale and their consequential effects on stream ecohydrology have recently received much attention. However, the role of hyporheic water fluxes in regional groundwater discharge is still not entirely understood. Streambed-induced flows not only affect mass and heat transport in streams but are also important for the retention of solute contamination originating from deep in the subsurface, such as naturally occurring solutes as well as leakage from the future geological disposal of nuclear waste. Here, we applied a multiscale modeling approach to investigate the effect of hyporheic fluxes on regional groundwater discharge in the Krycklan catchment, located in a boreal landscape in Sweden. Regional groundwater modeling was conducted using COMSOL Multiphysics constrained by observed or modeled representations of the catchment infiltration and geological properties, reflecting heterogeneities within the subsurface domain. Furthermore, streambed-scale modeling was performed using an exact spectral solution of the hydraulic head applicable to streaming water over a fluctuating streambed topography. By comparing the flow fields of watershed-scale groundwater discharge with and without consideration of streambed-induced hyporheic flows, we found that the flow trajectories and the distribution of the travel times of groundwater were substantially influenced by the presence of hyporheic fluxes near the streambed surface. One implication of hyporheic flows is that the groundwater flow paths contract near the streambed interface, thus fragmenting the coherent areas of groundwater upwelling and resulting in narrow “pinholes” of groundwater discharge points.
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