Identifying Hydrologic Signatures Associated with Streamflow Depletion Caused by Groundwater Pumping


Groundwater pumping can reduce streamflow in nearby waterways (‘streamflow depletion’), a process which must be accounted for in integrated management of surface and groundwater resources. However, causal identification of streamflow depletion from hydrographs alone is challenging because pumping impacts are masked by other drivers of hydrologic variability. To identify potential indicators of streamflow depletion, we used synthetic hydrographs and an analytical streamflow depletion model to assess potential pumping impacts on specific hydrograph characteristics (‘hydrologic signatures’) for 215 streamgages spanning the conterminous United States (CONUS). We found that streamflow depletion commonly impacts signatures associated with seasonal and annual low flows and low flow recessions. The largest impacts occurred during dry years, suggesting streamflow depletion may be evident in dry years even where impacts are unmeasurable in wet years. Random forest models indicated that streamflow depletion could significantly impact Annual, Summer, and Fall signatures in most streams. Our finding that multiple hydrologic signatures are consistently responsive to streamflow depletion across CONUS suggests that the underlying hydrological processes linking pumping to streamflow reductions are consistent across diverse settings, information that will aid in identifying indicators of streamflow depletion from streamflow hydrographs. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Hydrological Processes
Sam Zipper
HEAL@KGS PI; Assistant Scientist

I specialize in ecohydrology and hydrogeology of agricultural and urban landscapes.