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Environ Manage. 2003 Dec;32(6):706-19.

A GIS model of subsurface water potential for aquatic resource inventory, assessment, and environmental management.

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School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, 430 East University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1115, USA.


Biological, chemical, and physical attributes of aquatic ecosystems are often strongly influenced by groundwater sources. Nonetheless, widespread access to predictions of subsurface contributions to rivers, lakes, and wetlands at a scale useful to environmental managers is generally lacking. In this paper, we describe a "neighborhood analysis" approach for estimating topographic constraints on spatial patterns of recharge and discharge and discuss how this index has proven useful in research, management, and conservation contexts. The Michigan Rivers Inventory subsurface flux model (MRI-DARCY) used digital elevation and hydraulic conductivity inferred from mapped surficial geology to estimate spatial pattems of hydraulic potential. Model predictions were calculated in units of specific discharge (meters per day) for a 30-m-cell raster map and interpreted as an index of potential subsurface water flux (shallow groundwater and event through-flow). The model was evaluated by comparison with measurements of groundwater-related attributes at watershed, stream segment, and local spatial scales throughout Lower Michigan (USA). Map-based predictions using MRI-DARCY accounted for 85% of the observed variation in base flow from 128 USGS gauges, 69% of the observed variation in discharge accrual from 48 river segments, and 29% of the residual variation in local groundwater flux from 33 locations as measured by hyporheic temperature profiles after factoring out the effects of climate. Although it does not incorporate any information about the actual water table surface, by quantifying spatial variation of key constraints on groundwater-related attributes, the model provides strata for more intensive study, as well as a useful spatial tool for regional and local conservation planning, fisheries management, wetland characterization, and stream assessment.

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