Determination of groundwater-surface water interaction, upper Berg River catchment, South Africa
The present study investigated the application of a multi-method approach to determine groundwater-surface water (GW-SW) interactions to quantify and characterize the quality of water resources in a fractured rock aquifer system in upper catchment of the Berg River (G10A). Demonstrating methods for improved understanding of groundwater and surface water interactions is important for informing development of strategies that ensure effective utilization and management of water resources. Applying a single method to inform innovative strategies for water resources has proved futile. The current study shows how the use of several methods can provide the basis for devising practical strategies for water resource utilization and management. The three methods were applied as follows: First, the base flow separation was used whereby the Chapman and Lynne & Hollick digital filter algorithms were applied to time-series streamflow data from four stream gauging stations in the catchment. The computation from algorithms on three sites (gauging stations) showed that the mean Base Flow Index (BFI) value ranged between 7%-8% for the 2012-2014 periods. This means that discharges from subsurface water storages dominate stream flows throughout the study period. Secondly, the quality of groundwater and surface water was sampled using standard methods. Piper Diagrams generated on Aquachem™ software and radial charts were used to identify the predominant hydrochemical facies. Results showed that Na-Cl was the predominant GW and SW water-type. This means that both GW and SW are mainly influenced by recharging surface water as well as interaction occurring between the rock matrices and infiltrating water. Multivariate statistical analyses were used to evaluate the factors controlling GW and SW chemistry in the upper Berg River catchment and the results showed that GW and SW are influenced by natural processes. Two main factors (a. & b.) were extracted which explained 71.8% of the variation in both GW and SW physicochemical parameters. These factors include water-rock interactions and the recharge of surface water. Cluster Analysis extracted four major clusters that grouped sites with similar physicochemical characteristics together. Finally, differential stream gauging was applied to a 600m reach above the Berg River Dam. Three 200m sub-reaches were used to compute differences in flows between sub-reaches. Stream flow at each sub-reach was estimated using mass balance equations with electrical conductivity measurements during instant salt tracer injection tests. Results indicated that during both the wet season (high flow) dry season (low flow), the river continuously lost water to the subsurface. This was demonstrated by the 0.91m³/s and 2.24m³/s decrease in stream flow along the 600m reach. Dry season flow decreases were less than wet season flow decreases, indicated by markedly lower flow loss in respect to the wet season. This confirms results of the analysis of base flow separation, which indicated that discharges from subsurface storages dominate stream flows during low flow periods. The differential stream gauging approach did not provide distinct points along the selected stream reach where GW-SW interaction occurred; rather it provided a holistic representation of seasonal flow variations along the selected reach. This study showed that upper Berg River catchment is dependent on discharges from subsurface water storages to maintain dry season flows. Furthermore, this study showed that infiltration of surface water and discharge of subsurface water transfers the respective chemical signature of the contributor, meaning that the transfer of water of suitable quality will reduce contamination in the receiving water body (i.e. surface water). Transfer of water between subsurface and surface water contributed an average of 8% of the gauged flows in the catchment between 2012 and 2014, suggesting that the groundwater recharge process dominates this catchment.