Streambed Hydraulic Conductivity Structures: Enhanced Hyporheic Exchange and Contaminant Removal in Model and Constructed Stream

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Skuyler Herzog1, Christopher P Higgins1 and John E McCray2, (1)Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, United States, (2)Colorado School Mines, Golden, CO, United States
Urban- and agriculturally-impacted streams face widespread water quality challenges from excess nutrients, metals, and pathogens from nonpoint sources, which the hyporheic zone (HZ) can capture and treat. However, flow through the HZ is typically small relative to stream flow and thus water quality contributions from the HZ are practically insignificant. Hyporheic exchange is a prominent topic in stream biogeochemistry, but growing understanding of HZ processes has not been translated into practical applications. In particular, existing HZ restoration structures (i.e. cross-vanes) do not exchange water efficiently nor control the residence time (RT) of downwelling streamwater.

Here we present subsurface modifications to streambed hydraulic conductivity (K) to drive efficient hyporheic exchange and control RT, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of the HZ. Coordinated high K (i.e. gravel) and low K (i.e. concrete, clay) modifications are termed Biohydrochemical Enhancement structures for Streamwater Treatment (BEST). BEST can simply use native sediments or may also incorporate reactive geomedia to enhance reactions.

The contaminant mitigation potentials of BEST were estimated based on hyporheic flow and RT outputs from MODFLOW and MODPATH models and reported nutrient, metal, and pathogen removal rate constants from literature for specific porous media. Reactions of interest include denitrification and removal of phosphate, metals, and E. coli.

Simulations showed that BEST structures in series can substantially improve water quality in small streams along reaches of tens of meters. The model results are compared to observed data in tank and constructed stream experiments. Preliminary results with BEST incorporating woodchip geomedia demonstrate rapid denitrification exceeding model predictions. These experiments should establish BEST as a novel stream restoration structure or Best Management Practice (BMP) option to help practitioners achieve stormwater compliance.