Field-testing competing runoff source and hydrochemical conceptualisations

Friday, 19 December 2014: 12:05 PM
Andrew William Western1, Shabnam Saffarpour1, Russell Adams1, Justin F Costelloe1 and Jeffrey McDonnell2, (1)Melbourne University, Melbourne, Australia, (2)University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
There are competing conceptualisations of heterogeneity in catchment systems. It is often convenient to divide catchments into zones, for example the soil profile, groundwater aquifers (saturated zone), riparian zones, etc. We also often divide flow sources into distinct categories such as surface runoff, interflow and baseflow, implying a few distinct stores of water. In tracer hydrology we typically assume water from such zones has distinct and invariant chemistry that is used to infer the runoff source mixture through conservative mixing model techniques such as End-Member Mixing Analysis (EMMA). An alternative conceptualisation is that catchments consist of a large number of stores with varying residence times. In this case individual stores contribute a variable proportion of flow and may have a temporally varying composition due to processes such as evapo-concentration. Hence they have a variable influence on the hydrochemistry of runoff.

In this presentation, examples from two field studies in southern Australia will be presented that examine the relationships between hydrologic and hydrochemical conceptualisations and the relative variation within and between different hydrologic zones. The implications for water quality behaviour will be examined and the additional behavioural complexities associated with interactions between runoff pathways for non-conservative chemical species will be discussed.