Wave-Induced Groundwater Flows in a Freshwater Beach Aquifer

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 5:15 PM
Spencer S Malott, Clare E Robinson and Denis M O'Carroll, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada
Wave-induced recirculation across the sediment-water interface can impact the transport of pollutants through a beach aquifer and their ultimate flux into coastal waters. The fate of nutrients (e.g. from septic and agricultural sources) and fecal indicator bacteria (e.g. E. coil) near the sediment-water interface are of particular concern as these pollutants often lead to degradation of recreational water quality and nearshore ecosystems. This paper presents detailed field measurements of groundwater flows in a freshwater beach aquifer on Lake Huron over periods of intensified wave conditions. Quantifying wave-driven processes in a freshwater beach aquifer enables wave effects to be studied in isolation from density and tidal effects that complicate groundwater flows in marine beaches. Water exchange across the sediment-water interface and groundwater flow patterns were measured using groundwater wells, arrays of vertically nested pressure transducers and manometers. Results show that wave action induces rapid infiltration/exfiltration across the sediment-water interface and a larger recirculation cell through the beach aquifer. Field data is used to validate a numerical groundwater model of wave-induced groundwater flows. While prior studies have simulated the effects of waves on beach groundwater flows, this study is the first attempt to validate these sophisticated modeling approaches. Finally, field data illustrating the impact of wave-induced groundwater flows on nutrient and bacteria fate and transport in beach aquifers will also be presented.