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Hillslope-scale exploration of the relative contribution of base flow, seepage flow and overland flow to streamflow dynamics

Abstract : Surface and subsurface flows interact at different spatial and temporal scales through the development of saturated areas occurring when the aquifer reaches the surface. While this interaction exerts a strong control in the partitioning of water between base flow, seepage flow and overland flow, its quantification remains a challenge. Here, we propose a novel modeling approach based on two equivalent hillslopes to capture spatial and temporal variabilities of the main processes. We calibrate their subsurface hydraulic properties based on the temporal dynamics of stream discharge. The model is tested on two pilot catchments located in Brittany (France). For both catchments, the model is successfully calibrated on 40 years of stream discharge data. The results demonstrate that contrasted hydraulic properties are required, with: (1) a relatively low conductive hillslope (conductivities between 3x10–8 m/s and 2x10–6 m/s) enhancing overland flows during recharge periods while also sustaining low flows in the late recession period through slow aquifer discharge, and (2) a highly diffusive hillslope (diffusivity between 5x10–3 m2/s and 3x10–1 m2/s) dominantly shaping the event- to seasonal-scale streamflow recession behavior. The strong contrast of the two hillslopes reveals the fundamental role of heterogeneity in controlling groundwater storage-discharge functions, ruling out any homogeneous equivalent at the catchment scale. Low flows appear to be a non-obvious combination of the contributions of the two hillslopes, the less diffusive hillslope catching up to the more conductive one by the end of the low flow period. Catchment-scale responses integrate complex interactions between recharge, groundwater and overland flows through the volume of subsurface storage and the extent of the saturated area..
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https://hal-insu.archives-ouvertes.fr/insu-03690245
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Submitted on : Wednesday, June 8, 2022 - 9:09:31 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, August 3, 2022 - 4:06:13 AM

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Nicolas Cornette, Clément Roques, Alexandre Boisson, Quentin Courtois, Jean Marçais, et al.. Hillslope-scale exploration of the relative contribution of base flow, seepage flow and overland flow to streamflow dynamics. Journal of Hydrology, Elsevier, In press, pp.127992. ⟨10.1016/j.jhydrol.2022.127992⟩. ⟨insu-03690245⟩

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