The observation that “old” water dominates storm runoff suggests that release of low‐solute water from soils rather than rainwater must cause storm runoff dilution. This inference is supported by sprinkling experiments in an 860‐m2 catchment in the Oregon Coast Range, in which >200 mm of both high and low ionic strength precipitation produced similar concentration‐discharge trends. Rainwater chemistry was buffered as it traveled through catchment soils: the amount of sprinkling‐derived water in the runoff increased during long periods of steady discharge but was not accompanied by a change in runoff solute concentrations. Stored water plays a role in runoff dilution as well. Nearly all runoff from the catchment passes through underlying weathered bedrock rather than perching and discharging only through soil. Bedrock water composition appears to vary through storm events, as the average contact time of water with rock declines with increasing discharge, a behavior at odds with the concept of stable end‐members.
Water Resources Research – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 1997
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