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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-133
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-133
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 01 Apr 2020

Submitted as: research article | 01 Apr 2020

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

A hydrological framework for persistent river pools in semi-arid environments

Sarah A. Bourke1, Margaret Shanafield2, Paul Hedley3, and Shawan Dogramaci3 Sarah A. Bourke et al.
  • 1School of Earth Sciences, University of Western Australia, Crawley WA 6009 Australia
  • 2College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Australia
  • 3Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Perth, WA 6000 Australia

Abstract. Persistent surface water pools along non-perennial rivers represent an important water resource for the plants, animals, and humans that inhabit semi-arid regions. While ecological studies of these features are not uncommon, these are rarely accompanied by a rigorous examination of the hydrological and hydrogeological characteristics that create or support the pools. Here we present an overarching framework for understanding the hydrology of persistent pools based on data from 22 pools in the Hamersley Basin in Western Australia. Three dominant mechanisms that control the occurrence of persistent pools have been identified; perched pools, through flow pools and groundwater discharge pools. Groundwater discharge pools are further categorized into those that are present because of a geological contact or barrier, and those that are controlled by topography. A suite of diagnostic tools (including geological mapping, hydraulic data and hydrochemical surveys) is generally required to identify the mechanism supporting persistent pools. Perched pools are sensitive to climate variability but their persistence is largely independent of groundwater withdrawals. Water fluxes to pools from alluvial and bedrock aquifers can vary seasonally and resolving these inputs is generally non-trivial. The susceptibility of through-flow and groundwater discharge pools to climate variations and groundwater withdrawals depends on the mechanism of pool persistence and the spatial distribution of stressors relative to the pool. Although this framework was developed in the context of north-western Australia, this framework can also be applied to pools and springs found along non-perennial rivers around the world.

Sarah A. Bourke et al.

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Sarah A. Bourke et al.

Sarah A. Bourke et al.

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Latest update: 13 Jul 2020
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Short summary
Rivers in semi-arid regions are subject to increasing pressure from altered hydrology. This paper presents a new hydrologic framework for persistent river pools so that risks to pool water quality or quantity can be addressed based on common language and understanding. Four dominant mechanisms that support pool persistence are identified each with varying degrees of connection to groundwater and differing controls on groundwater sources. Field methods and pool susceptibility are also discussed.
Rivers in semi-arid regions are subject to increasing pressure from altered hydrology. This...
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