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Water and chemical recharge in subsurface catchment: observations and consequences for modeling

Abstract : Shallow groundwater that develops on hillslopes is the main compartment in headwater catchments for flow and solute transport to rivers. Although spatial and temporal variations in its chemical composition are reported in the literature, there is no coherent description of the way these variations are organized, nor is there an accepted conceptual model for the recharge mechanisms and flows in the groundwater involved. We instrumented an intensive farming and subsurface dominant catchment located in Oceanic Western Europe (France), included in AgrHyS catchments (for Agro-Hydro-SyStem) and a part of the French network of catchments for environmental research (SOERE RBV dedicated to the Critical Zone). It is strongly constrained by anthropogenic pressures (agriculture) and is characterized by a clear non-equilibrium status. A network of 42 nested piezometers was installed along a 200 m hillslope allowing water sampling in the permanent water table as well as in what we call the fluctuating zone, characterized by seasonal alternance of saturated and unsaturated conditions. Water composition was monitored at high frequency (weekly) over a 3-year period for major anion composition and over a one year period for detailed 15N, CFC, SF6 and other dissolved gases composition. The results demonstrated that (i) the anionic composition in water table fluctuation zone varied significantly compared to deeper portions of the aquifer on the hillslope, confirming that this layer constitutes a main compartment for the mixing of new recharge water and old groundwater, (ii) seasonally, the variations of 15N and CFC are much higher during the recharge period than during the recession period, confirming the preferential flow during early recharge events, iii) variations of nitrate 15N and O18 composition was suggesting any significant denitrification process in the fluctuating zone, confirming the dominance of the mixing processes in the fluctuating zone, iv) deeper parts of the aquifer exhibited seasonal variations with structured hysteretic patterns, suggesting that mixing process also occurred at greater depths and v) these hysteretic patterns were dampered from upslope to downslope, indicating an increased influence of lateral flow downslope. These results indicate that we have to change the way we model subsurface dominant catchment, taken into account the degree of saturation of the catchment, the mixing processes varying from the surface to depth, and upslope to downslope. As of now, we can deduce from these results that the residence times estimated from end member approaches considering the groundwater as homogeneous lumped reservoir are likely to be underestimated. Instrumented observatories are required to understand the anthropogenic and environmental processes and their interactions, to model and predict the effect and the response time of these systems under different constraints. Rouxel, M., Molenat, J., Ruiz, L., Legout C., Faucheux, M., Gascuel-Odoux C., 2011. Seasonal and spatial variation in groundwater quality at the hillslope scale: study in an agricultural headwater catchment in Brittany (France). Hydrological Processes, 25, 831-841.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 1:14:53 PM
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  • HAL Id : hal-02748289, version 1
  • PRODINRA : 253058


Chantal Gascuel-Odoux, Luc Aquilina, Mikaël Faucheux, Philippe Mérot, Jérôme Molenat, et al.. Water and chemical recharge in subsurface catchment: observations and consequences for modeling. AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec. 2011, American Geophysical Union (AGU). USA., Dec 2011, San Francisco, CA, United States. ⟨hal-02748289⟩



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