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How geomorphology shapes groundwater transit times at the hillslope scale?

Abstract : We investigate how geomorphological structures shape Transit Time Distributions (TTDs) in shallow aquifers. We show that the TTD is determined by integrated features of the groundwater structure and of the repartition of seepage in convergent/divergent hillslopes of constant slope. More specifically, the coefficient of variation of the TTD (standard deviation divided by the mean) scales linearly with the mean distance of the groundwater volume to the river. The extent and structure of seepage modify the groundwater contribution to the transit time distribution and increase its variability. Extensive 3D simulations were performed to determine the TTDs synthetic convergent, straight and divergent hillslope models of constant slope. The recharge was applied uniformly on top of the aquifer and transferred to the receiving stream through steady-state groundwater flows, return flows and saturation excess overland flows. Without seepage, TTDs evolve from uniform- to power law-like- distributions depending on the average distance of the groundwater volume to the river. Remarkably, the coefficient of variation of the TTDs scales linearly with the groundwater volume to the river at any hillslope convergent/divergent rate in agreement with a theoretical prediction based on three analytical approximations. With seepage, the TTD progressively displays three separate modes corresponding (1) to the rapid saturation excess overland flows, (2) to the intermediary circulations ending up in seepage area and (3) to the slower circulations going from a recharge upstream the seepage zone to a discharge in the river. The coefficient of variation additionally depends on the extent of the seepage area. Applied to a natural hillslope in the crystalline basement of Normandy (France), the same synthetic analysis demonstrates that the coefficient of variation is not only determined by the extent of the seepage zone but also by its structure in relation to the geomorphological local and global organizations. These results suggest the possibility to assess the variability of transit times by combining geomorphological analysis, surface soil saturation observations and environmental tracers.
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https://hal-insu.archives-ouvertes.fr/insu-03227600
Contributor : Isabelle Dubigeon <>
Submitted on : Monday, May 17, 2021 - 2:11:43 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, May 19, 2021 - 3:10:38 AM

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Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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Jean-Raynald de Dreuzy, Alexandre Gauvain, Sarah Leray, Jean Marçais, Clément Roques, et al.. How geomorphology shapes groundwater transit times at the hillslope scale?. European Geosciences Union General Assembly (EGU 2021), Apr 2021, online, France. pp.EGU21-14492, 2021, ⟨10.5194/egusphere-egu21-14492⟩. ⟨insu-03227600⟩

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