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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-566
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-566
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Review article 17 Dec 2018

Review article | 17 Dec 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

A review of methods for measuring groundwater–surface water exchange in braided rivers

Katie Coluccio1 and Leanne Kaye Morgan1,2 Katie Coluccio and Leanne Kaye Morgan
  • 1Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
  • 2College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia

Abstract. Braided rivers, while uncommon internationally, are significant in terms of their unique ecosystems and as vital freshwater resources at locations where they occur. With an increasing awareness of the connected nature of surface water and groundwater, there have been many studies examining groundwater–surface water exchange in various types of waterbodies, but significantly less research has been conducted in braided rivers. Thus, there is currently limited understanding of how characteristics unique to braided rivers, such as channel shifting; expanding and narrowing margins; and a high degree of heterogeneity affect groundwater–surface water flow paths. This article provides an overview of characteristics specific to braided rivers, including a map showing the regions where braided rivers are concentrated at the global scale: Alaska, Canada, the Japanese and European Alps, the Himalayas and New Zealand. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first map of its kind. This is followed by a review of prior studies that have investigated groundwater-surface water interactions in braided rivers and their associated aquifers. The various methods used to characterise these processes are discussed with emphasis on their effectiveness in achieving the studies' objectives and their applicability in braided rivers. The aim is to provide guidance on methodologies most suitable for future work in braided rivers. In many cases, previous studies found a multi-method approach useful to produce more robust results and compare data collected at various scales. Ultimately, the most appropriate method(s) for a given study will be based on several factors, including the scale of interactions that need to be observed; site-specific characteristics; budget; and time available. Given these considerations, we conclude that it is best to begin braided river studies with broad-scale methods such as airborne thermal imaging, differential flow gauging or tracer analysis and then focus the investigation using finer scale techniques such as groundwater well observations or temperature sensors. Given the challenges of working directly in braided rivers, there is considerable scope for the increased use of remote sensing techniques and geophysics. There is also opportunity for new approaches to modelling braided rivers using integrated techniques that incorporate the often-complex river bed terrain and geomorphology of braided rivers explicitly. We also identify a critical need to improve understanding of the role of hyporheic exchange in braided rivers; rates of recharge to/from braided rivers; and historical patterns of dry and low-flow periods in these rivers.

Katie Coluccio and Leanne Kaye Morgan
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Katie Coluccio and Leanne Kaye Morgan
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Short summary
Braided rivers are uncommon internationally but are important freshwater resources. However, there is limited understanding of how characteristics unique to braided rivers affect groundwater–surface water flow paths. This article reviews prior studies that have investigated groundwater–surface water interactions in these rivers and their associated aquifers to provide guidance on methodologies most suitable for future work in braided rivers and highlight gaps in current knowledge.
Braided rivers are uncommon internationally but are important freshwater resources. However,...
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