Biological Systems Engineering, Department of


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Published in Hydrological Processes 25:20 (September 30, 2011), pp. 3230–3243; doi: 10.1002/hyp.8054


Copyright 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Used by permission.


Models for contaminant transport in streams commonly idealize transient storage as a well-mixed but immobile system. These transient storage models capture rapid (near-stream) hyporheic storage and transport, but do not account for large-scale, stage-dependent interaction with the alluvial aquifer. The objective of this research was to document transient storage of phosphorus (P) in coarse gravel alluvium potentially influenced by large-scale, stage-dependent preferential flow pathways (PFPs). Long-term monitoring was performed at floodplain sites adjacent to the Barren Fork Creek and Honey Creek in northeastern Oklahoma. Based on results from subsurface electrical resistivity mapping which was correlated to hydraulic conductivity data, observation wells were installed both in higher hydraulic conductivity and lower hydraulic conductivity subsoils. Water levels in the wells were monitored over time, and water samples were obtained from the observation wells and the stream to document P concentrations at multiple times during high flow events. Contour plots indicating direction of flow were developed using water table elevation data. Contour plots of total P concentrations showed the alluvial aquifer acting as a transient storage zone, with P-laden stream water heterogeneously entering the aquifer during the passage of a storm pulse, and subsequently re-entering the stream during baseflow conditions. Some groundwater in the alluvial floodplains had total P concentrations that mirrored the streams’ total P concentrations. A detailed analysis of P forms indicated that particulate P (i.e. P attached to particulates greater than 0·45 μm) was a significant portion of the P transport. This research suggests the need for more controlled studies on stage-dependent transient storage in alluvial systems.