Modeling Contaminant Microbes in Rivers During Both Baseflow and Stormflow

J. D. Drummond, T. Aquino, R. J. Davies‐colley, R. Stott, S. Krause

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Rivers transport contaminant microorganisms (including fecal indicator bacteria and human pathogens) long distances downstream of diffuse and point sources, posing a human health risk. We present a mobile-immobile model that incorporates transport as well as immobilization and remobilization of contaminant microbes and other fine particles during baseflow and stormflow. During baseflow conditions, hyporheic exchange flow causes particles to accumulate in streambed sediments. Remobilization of stored particles from streambed sediments occurs slowly during baseflow via hyporheic exchange flow, while remobilization is vastly increased during stormflow. Model predictions are compared to observations over a range of artificial and natural flood events in the dairy contaminated Topehaehae Stream, New Zealand. The model outputs closely matched timing and magnitude of E. coli and turbidity observations through multiple high-flow events. By accounting for both state-of-flow and hyporheic exchange processes, the model provides a valuable framework for predicting particle and contaminant microbe behavior in streams.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021GL096514
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2022


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