Discharge, Groundwater Gradients, and Streambed Micro-Topography Control the Temporal Dynamics of Transient Storage in a Headwater Reach


Bonanno E., Blöschl G., Klaus J.


Water Resources Research, vol. 59, n° 7, art. no. e2022WR034053, 2023


Contradictory interpretations of transient storage modeling (TSM) results of past studies hamper the understanding of how hydrologic conditions control solute transport in streams. To address this issue, we conduct 30 instantaneous tracer experiments in the Weierbach stream, Luxembourg. Using an iterative modeling approach, we calibrate TSM parameters and assess their identifiability across various hydrologic conditions. Near-stream groundwater monitoring wells and LIDAR scans of the streambed are used to evaluate the area of the hyporheic zone and of the submerged sediments for each experiment. Our findings show that increasing discharge enhances parameters interaction requiring more samples of TSM parameters to obtain identifiable results. Our results also indicate that transient storage at the study site is influenced by in-stream and hyporheic exchange processes during low discharge, likely due to the hyporheic zone's large extent and the relatively low water level compared to the size of slate fragments on the streambed. However, as discharge increases, in-stream storage zones become part of the advective channel and the lower localized stream water losses to the adjacent groundwater suggests a decrease of the hyporheic exchange on transient storage. The results obtained were utilized to generate a hydrograph for the study site illustrating the dynamic evolution of in-stream and hyporheic storage with varying discharge, providing insights into the expected influence of different transient storage processes prior to tracer experiments. Overall, our study enhances the understanding of the role of the hyporheic area and in-stream storage zones in transient storage and helps estimate TSM parameters more accurately.



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