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Surface Water Groundwater Exchange in Low-Gradient Streams

Research Info

Student: Ryan Plath

Potential Advisors: Eric Peterson, Catherine O'Reilly

Surface water-groundwater interaction is a popular focus of study by students in the program. The Department of Geography-Geology has a research field where students are able to examine the interaction between a third-order agricultural stream and a glacial outwash aquifer. Past students have explored how physical parameters control the flux of water between the surface and subsurface.

In the agricultural intensive areas of Illinois, streams are routinely modified to ensure drainage within the fields. Subsequently, the interface between the streams and the aquifers is disrupted. Though tile drains have been shown to contribute to high levels of nitrate in agricultural streams, the locations of tile drains on a watershed scale are unknown due to tile drains being located on many separate parcels of private property. Ryan is evaluating the capability of a methodology for locating areas of large tile drainage contribution to agricultural streams and examines if there is a difference in the scaling relationship between tile-flow and non-tile flow conditions. A scaling relationship between peak discharge and drainage area will be created and locations that plot above the scaling relationship have a higher peak discharge relative to drainage area and represent a transition break. A tributary entering a main stream channel causes a transition break, so GIS will be used to identify whether this unknown flux is a tributary entering the main channel or if an area of large tile drainage contribution to the stream is replacing the function of a tributary. If this method is effective at Money Creek, it could be applied to tile drained areas throughout the Midwest to locate target zones for best management practices in nutrient reduction. More information on this and other projects can be found on the Water Research page.

researchers in stream.

Recent surface water-groundwater interaction publications include (* indicates graduate student):