A study was conducted to quantify the source of increased dissolved aluminum concentrations during acidic storm flows on a small Pennsylvania stream. Data for six episodes during fall 1986 and spring 1987 showed depressions in stream pH and increases in sulfates, conductivity, dissolved organic carbon, and dissolved aluminum. Flow separation analyses were conducted using 18O as a tracer in a three‐component mass balance tracer model. Results showed that soil water and groundwater are the dominant flow sources, accounting for approximately 20 and 75% of total flow during storms, respectively. Channel precipitation generally provided less than 5% of total flows. Hydrograph separation using aluminum agreed with 18O results, while other chemical parameters produced unsatisfactory results. The data support Hewlett's (1982) variable source area concept of storm flow generation with inputs of older, deep circulating groundwater from low‐elevation source areas early in an event and later inputs of younger soil water and possibly shallow groundwater from expanding source areas at higher elevations. The results suggest that the most toxic runoff events for aquatic life occur during large storms when the greatest inputs of soil water cause elevated stream dissolved aluminum concentrations. Reductions in storm flow acidity and dissolved aluminum concentrations on this catchment will be most dependent upon changes in soil water and/or groundwater chemistry.
Water Resources Research – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 1989
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