Quantifying urban river-aquifer fluid exchange processes: A multi-scale problem

PA Ellis, Rae Mackay, Michael Rivett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Citations (Scopus)


Groundwater-river exchanges in an urban setting have been investigated through long term field monitoring and detailed modelling of a 7 km reach of the Tame river as it traverses the unconfined Triassic Sandstone aquifer that lies beneath the City of Birmingham, UK. Field investigations and numerical modelling have been completed at a range of spatial and temporal scales from the metre to the kilometre scale and from event (hourly) to multi-annual time scales. The objective has been to quantify the spatial and temporal flow distributions governing mixing processes at the aquifer-river interface that can affect the chemical activity in the hyporheic zone of this urbanised river. The hyporheic zone is defined to be the zone of physical mixing of river and aquifer water. The results highlight the multi-scale controls that govern the fluid exchange distributions that influence the thickness of the mixing zone between urban rivers and groundwater and the patterns of groundwater flow through the bed of the river. The morphologies of the urban river bed and the adjacent river bank sediments are found to be particularly influential in developing the mixing zone at the interface between river and groundwater. Pressure transients in the river are also found to exert an influence on velocity distribution in the bed material. Areas of significant mixing do not appear to be related to the areas of greatest groundwater discharge and therefore this relationship requires further investigation to quantify the actual remedial capacity of the physical hyporheic zone.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-80
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2007


  • groundwater
  • urban
  • accretion
  • hyporheic zone
  • modelling


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