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Geophysics for USGS Groundwater/Surface-water Interaction Studies

 [ Image: Thermal image of groundwater discharging along edge of stream. Refer to caption for description. ]

Figure 1. Infrared image indicates water temperature, where warmer temperatures are represented as yellow and cooler temperatures as purple. The image presents an area where a relatively warm groundwater seep is discharing along the edge of a relatively cooler stream, and the water is mixing. The temperature range displayed is approximately 1 to 8 degrees Celsius. The area at the center of the image is about 2 meters across. Image: USGS/Martin Briggs.


Understanding the interaction of groundwater and surface water is essential to water managers and hydrologists for the development of effective water-resource policy, protection, and management. Groundwater/surface-water interactions include the exchange of fluids and solutes, which can affect water quality and water supply. Groundwater is a major source of water to streams, lakes, and wetlands; surface water can also recharge (replenish) groundwater supplies.

Traditional methods of collecting groundwater/surface-water exchange data can be labor intensive. The effects of groundwater/surface-water exchange can occur on a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Various methods of data collection apply to fundamentally different areas and time periods. Conditions at the local and regional scale are often characterized based on measurements made at a few individual points. However, useful predictions based on point measurements are difficult because the characteristics of groundwater/surface-water exchange can vary over time and across a site or region.

Applied Research

The USGS Office of Groundwater, Branch of Geophysics (OGW BG) collaborates on applied research projects to evaluate the use of new or emerging hydrogeophysical tools and methods to improve our understanding of groundwater/surface-water exchange. Methods based on electrical, thermal, and physical properties of exchange zones can efficiently locate and quantify interactions between groundwater and surface water. This spatially distributed information can tie point measurements to larger processes controlling flow and transport. As a result, we are better able to understand and forecast movement of water between groundwater and surface-water bodies and associated changes in water quality and quantity.

Recent projects have focused on groundwater/surface-water exchange evaluation in

Types of Equipment, Tools, and Methods Used in Recent Branch Applied Research:

Recent Publications:


Anderson, R.B., Naftz, D.L., Day-Lewis, F.D., Henderson, R.D., Rosenberry, D.O., Stolp, B.J., and Jewell, P., 2014, Quantity and quality of groundwater discharge in a hypersaline lake environment: Journal of Hydrology, vol. 512, pp. 177-194, [Link exits the USGS web site].

Briggs, M.A., Day-Lewis, F.D., Zarnetske, J.P., and Harvey, J.W., 2015, A physical explanation for the development of redox microzones in hyporheic flow: Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 42, doi: 10.1002/2015GL064200.

Briggs, M.A., Lautz, L.K., Buckley, S.F., Lane, J.W., 2014, Practical limitations on the use of diurnal temperature signals to quantify groundwater upwelling: Journal of Hydrology, vol. 519, pp. 1739-1751.

Briggs, M.A., Lautz, L.K., Hare, D.K., and González-Pinzón, R., 2013, Relating hyporheic fluxes, residence times, and redox-sensitive biogeochemical processes upstream of beaver dams: Freshwater Science, vol. 32, no. 2, doi: 10.1899/12-110.1.

Climate Change

Briggs, M.A., Walvoord, M.A., McKenzie, J.M., Voss, C.I., Day-Lewis, F.D., and Lane, J.W., 2014, New permafrost is forming around shrinking arctic lakes, but will it last?: Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1002/2014GL059251

Lane, J.W., Briggs, M.A., Kulongoski, J.T., and Pollock, A., 2013, Evaluating hydrologic response to land cover and climate change -- An example from Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge [abs.], in AGU fall meeting, San Francisco, California, 9-13 December 2013: Washington, D.C., American Geophysical Union.

Water Quality and Contaminant Transport

Anderson, R.B., Naftz, D.L., Day-Lewis, F.D., Henderson, R.D., Rosenberry, D.O., Stolp, B.J., and Jewell, P., 2014, Quantity and quality of groundwater discharge in a hypersaline lake environment: Journal of Hydrology, vol. 512, p. 177-194.

Briggs, M.A., Day-Lewis, F.D., Ong, J.B.T., Curtis, G.P., and Lane, J.W., 2013, Simultaneous estimation of local-scale and flow path-scale dual-domain mass transfer parameters using geoelectrical monitoring [Link exits the USGS web site]: Water Resources Research, vol. 49, p. 5615-5630, doi:10.1002/wrcr.20397.

Briggs, M.A., Gooseff, M.N. , Arp, C.D. and Baker, M.A., 2009, A Method for estimating surface transient storage parameters for streams with concurrent hyporheic storage, Water Resources Research, vol. 45, no. 4, 13 p., doi:10.1029/2008WR006959

Johnson, T.C., Slater, L.D., Ntarlagiannis, D., Day-Lewis, F.D., and Elwaseif, M., 2012, Monitoring groundwater/surface-water interaction using time-series and time-frequency analysis of transient three-dimensional electrical resistivity changes, Water Resources Research, vol. 48, W07506, doi:10.1029/2012WR011893.

Mwakanyamale, K., Day-Lewis, F.D., Slater, L., 2013, Statistical mapping of zones of focused groundwater/surface-water exchange using fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing, Water Resources Research, 49, 6979–6984, doi:10.1002/wrcr.20458.

Mwakanyamale, K., Slater, L., Day-Lewis, F.D., Elwaseif, M., Ntarlagiannis, D., and Johnson, C.D., 2012, Spatially variable stage-driven groundwater-surface water interaction inferred from time-frequency analysis of distributed temperature sensing data, Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2011GL050824.

Slater, L.D., Ntarglagiannis, D., Day-Lewis, F.D., Mwakyanamale, K., Versteeg, R.J., Ward, A., Strickland, C., Johnson, C.D., and Lane, J.W., Jr., 2010, Use of electrical imaging and distributed temperature sensing methods to characterize surface water–groundwater exchange regulating uranium transport at the Hanford 300 Area, Washington, Water Resources Research, 46, W10533, doi:10.1029/2010WR009110.

Coastal Studies

Henderson, R.D., Day-Lewis, F.D., and Harvey, C.F, 2009, Investigation of aquifer-estuary interaction using wavelet analysis of fiber-optic temperature data, Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L06403, doi:10.1029/2008GL036926.

Henderson, R.D., Day-Lewis, F.D., Harvey, C.F., Abarca, E., Karam, H.N., Liu, L. and Lane, J.W., Jr., 2010, Marine Electrical Resistivity Imaging of Submarine Ground-Water Discharge: Sensitivity Analysis and Application in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts, USA, Hydrogeology Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1, 10.1007/s10040-009-0498-z, 173-185.

New and Emerging Methods

Briggs, M.A., Day-Lewis, F.D., Ong, J.B., Harvey, J.W., and Lane, J.W., 2014, Dual-domain mass-transfer parameters from electrical hysteresis: Theory and analytical approach applied to laboratory, synthetic streambed, and groundwater experiments: Water Resources Research, vol. 50, no. 10, pp.8281–8299, doi:10.1002/2014WR015880.

Briggs, M.A., Lautz, L.K. and Hare, D.H., 2014, Residence time control on hot moments of net nitrate production and uptake in the hyporheic zone: Hydrological Processes, doi: 10.1002/hyp.9921.

Buckley, S.F., 2014, Development of a paired heat-pulse and high-resolution fiber optic temperature sensing technique to quantify groundwater upwelling in strongly gaining streams: Storrs, Connecticut, University of Connecticut, M.S. thesis. 55 p., 12 figs.

Singha, K., Pidlisecky, A., Day-Lewis, F.D., and Gooseff, M.N., 2008, Electrical characterization of non-Fickian transport in groundwater and hyporheic systems, Water Resources Research, 44, W00D07, doi:10.1029/2008WR007048. 

Voytek, E.B., Drenkelfuss, A., Day-Lewis, F.D., Healy, R., Werkema, D., and Lane, J.W., Jr., 2014, 1DTempPro -- Analyzing temperature profiles for groundwater/surface-water exchange: Groundwater, vol. 52, no. 2, p. 298-302, doi: 10.1111/gwat.12051


Photo Gallery

 [ Photo: USGS scientist operates electromagnetic induction tool. Refer to caption for description. ]

Figure 2. John Lane (Chief, USGS OGW Branch of Geophysics) collecting electromagnetic induction data to characterize the distribution of freshwater resources to provide a baseline for the potential effects of vegetation management and sea level rise. Palmyra Atoll (incorporated territory by the United States), 2013. Photo: USGS/Martin Briggs.

 [ Image: Thermal image of groundwater discharging into drainage ditch. Refer to caption for description. ]

Figure 3. Infrared image indicates water temperature, where warmer temperatures are represented as red and cooler temperatures as blue. The image presents an area where relatively warm groundwater seepage enters a cold drainage ditch in late winter at a stream restoration site in Massachusetts. The temperature scale is in degrees Celsius. Image: USGS/Martin Briggs.

 [ Photo: Scientist guides seaplane away from lake shore. Refer to caption for description. ]

Figure 4. Martin Briggs (Hydrologist, USGS OGW Branch of Geophysics) is shown guiding in a float plane for transportation from a native village to a remote lake which has recently been changing size, possible as a result of climate change. Fort Yukon, Alaska. Photo: USGS/Micah Claypoole.

 [ Photo: Scientist paddles canoe during geophysical survey. Refer to caption for description. ]

Figure 5. Micah Claypoole is shown collecting waterborne geophysical data to map the distribution of newly formed permafrost just south of the Arctic Circle where recent changes in lake sizes have been recently linked to climate change. Yukon Flats, Alaska. Photo: USGS/Martin Briggs.

For more information

For more information on this project, please contact Martin Briggs or Fred Day-Lewis (Research Hydrologists, USGS OGW Branch of Geophysics), or call the Branch of Geophysics at (860) 487-7402.

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