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Spatiotemporal variability in hydrochemistry of shallow groundwater in a small pre‐alpine catchment: the importance of landscape elements


Kiewiet, Leonie; Freyberg, Jana; van Meerveld, H J (2019). Spatiotemporal variability in hydrochemistry of shallow groundwater in a small pre‐alpine catchment: the importance of landscape elements. Hydrological Processes, 33(19):2502-2522.

Abstract

Topography and landscape characteristics affect the storage and release of water and, thus, groundwater dynamics and chemistry. Quantification of catchment scale variability in groundwater chemistry and groundwater dynamics may therefore help to delineate different groundwater types and improve our understanding of which parts of the catchment contribute to streamflow. We sampled shallow groundwater from 34 to 47 wells and streamflow at seven locations in a 20‐ha steep mountainous catchment in the Swiss pre‐Alps, during nine baseflow snapshot campaigns. The spatial variability in electrical conductivity, stable water isotopic composition, and major and trace ion concentrations was large and for almost all parameters larger than the temporal variability. Concentrations of copper, zinc, and lead were highest at sites that were relatively dry, whereas concentrations of manganese and iron were highest at sites that had persistent shallow groundwater levels. The major cation and anion concentrations were only weakly correlated to individual topographic or hydrodynamic characteristics. However, we could distinguish four shallow groundwater types based on differences from the catchment average concentrations: riparian zone‐like groundwater, hillslopes and areas with small upslope contributing areas, deeper groundwater, and sites characterized by high magnesium and sulfate concentrations that likely reflect different bedrock material. Baseflow was not an equal mixture of the different groundwater types. For the majority of the campaigns, baseflow chemistry most strongly resembled riparian‐like groundwater for all but one subcatchment. However, the similarity to the hillslope‐type groundwater was larger shortly after snowmelt, reflecting differences in hydrologic connectivity. We expect that similar groundwater types can be found in other catchments with steep hillslopes and wet areas with shallow groundwater levels and recommend sampling of groundwater from all landscape elements to understand groundwater chemistry and groundwater contributions to streamflow.

Abstract

Topography and landscape characteristics affect the storage and release of water and, thus, groundwater dynamics and chemistry. Quantification of catchment scale variability in groundwater chemistry and groundwater dynamics may therefore help to delineate different groundwater types and improve our understanding of which parts of the catchment contribute to streamflow. We sampled shallow groundwater from 34 to 47 wells and streamflow at seven locations in a 20‐ha steep mountainous catchment in the Swiss pre‐Alps, during nine baseflow snapshot campaigns. The spatial variability in electrical conductivity, stable water isotopic composition, and major and trace ion concentrations was large and for almost all parameters larger than the temporal variability. Concentrations of copper, zinc, and lead were highest at sites that were relatively dry, whereas concentrations of manganese and iron were highest at sites that had persistent shallow groundwater levels. The major cation and anion concentrations were only weakly correlated to individual topographic or hydrodynamic characteristics. However, we could distinguish four shallow groundwater types based on differences from the catchment average concentrations: riparian zone‐like groundwater, hillslopes and areas with small upslope contributing areas, deeper groundwater, and sites characterized by high magnesium and sulfate concentrations that likely reflect different bedrock material. Baseflow was not an equal mixture of the different groundwater types. For the majority of the campaigns, baseflow chemistry most strongly resembled riparian‐like groundwater for all but one subcatchment. However, the similarity to the hillslope‐type groundwater was larger shortly after snowmelt, reflecting differences in hydrologic connectivity. We expect that similar groundwater types can be found in other catchments with steep hillslopes and wet areas with shallow groundwater levels and recommend sampling of groundwater from all landscape elements to understand groundwater chemistry and groundwater contributions to streamflow.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:Water Science and Technology
Language:English
Date:15 September 2019
Deposited On:18 Dec 2019 15:10
Last Modified:27 Mar 2020 13:40
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0885-6087
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.13517

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