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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-2018-609
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-609
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 08 Jan 2019

Research article | 08 Jan 2019

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).

Crossing hydrological and geochemical modeling to understand the spatiotemporal variability of water chemistry in an elementary watershed (Strengbach, France)

Julien Ackerer, Benjamin Jeannot, Frederick Delay, Sylvain Weill, Yann Lucas, Bertrand Fritz, Daniel Viville, and François Chabaux Julien Ackerer et al.
  • Laboratoire d'Hydrologie et de Géochimie de Strasbourg, Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, ENGEES, 1 rue Blessig, 67084 Strasbourg Cedex, France

Abstract. Understanding the spatiotemporal variability of the chemical composition of surface waters is a major issue for the scientific community, especially given the prospect of significant environmental changes for the next decades. To date, the study of concentration-discharge relationships has been intensively used to assess the spatiotemporal variability of the water chemistry at watershed scales; however, the lack of independent estimations of the water transit times within catchments limits our ability to model and predict the water chemistry with only geochemical approaches. This study demonstrates the potential of coupling mathematical hydrology with hydrogeochemical modeling to better understand the spatiotemporal variability of the composition of surface waters. In a first step, a dimensionally reduced hydrological model coupling surface flow with subsurface flow (i.e., the Normally Integrated Hydrological Model, NIHM) has been used to constrain the distribution of the flow lines that are feeding the springs. In a second step, hydrogeochemical simulations with the code KIRMAT (KInectic Reaction and MAss Transport) have been performed to calculate the evolution of the water chemistry along the flow lines. The results indicate that the concentrations of dissolved silica (H4SiO4) and in basic cations (Na+, K+, Mg2+, and Ca2+) in the spring waters are correctly reproduced with a simple integration along the flow lines. The results also show that the modest variabilities of the flow line distribution and of the flow velocity imply that the water transit times only vary from approximately 1.5 to 3 months from floods to drought events. These findings demonstrate that the chemostatic behavior of the spring chemistry is a direct consequence of the strong hydrological control of the water transit times within the catchment. The good matching between the measured and modeled concentrations while respecting the water-rock interaction times provided by the hydrological simulations also shows that it is possible to capture the chemical composition of waters using simply determined reactive surfaces and standard kinetic constants. The results of our simulation strengthen the idea that the low surfaces calculated from the geometrical shapes of minerals are a good estimate of the reactive surfaces within the natural environment and certainly the one to be used for hydrogeochemical modeling such as that performed in this work, in addition to the use of the experimental kinetic constants for mineral dissolution. Overall, this work shows that the hydrogeochemical functioning of an elementary watershed, such as the Strengbach catchment, is relatively simple. The acquisition and variability of the water chemistry can be explained through process-based modeling approaches and by only formulating few hypotheses on the functioning of the watershed.

Julien Ackerer et al.
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Julien Ackerer et al.
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