A conservative solute tracer experiment was conducted in Indian Creek, a small urban stream in Philadelphia, PA, to investigate the role of subsurface properties on the exchange between streamwater and the hyporheic zone (subsurface surrounding the stream). Sodium bromide (NaBr) was used as a conservative tracer, and it was monitored in the surface water and in the bed sediments of a 15 m long pool. Subsurface sampling occurred at 12 locations in the upper layer sediments (extending from 7.5 to 10 cm below the streambed) and 13 locations in the lower layer sediments (extending from 10 to 12.5 cm below the streambed). The hydraulic conductivity (K) of the upper bed sediments and the lower bed sediments was measured in situ. Several locations within the streambed exhibited an increase in tracer concentration with depth, suggesting the presence of horizontal flow paths within this small pool. Over the entire pool, the influence of K heterogeneity on hyporheic exchange was masked by the groundwater head gradient and the morphology of the stream. Together, the groundwater head gradient and stream morphology induced a generally high tracer concentration and fast hyporheic exchange on the left side and center of the channel and low concentrations and slower exchange on the right side. Although the reach-scale effects on the surface water concentration were small, groundwater greatly influenced the local-scale hyporheic exchange in the pool. Understanding how physical stream characteristics control the location and extent of hyporheic exchange pathways will lead to a better understanding of biogeochemical cycling of nutrients and contaminants.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry