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Baseflow and transmission loss: A review

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Abstract There is an extensive literature dealing with the interaction between groundwater and surface water, and this includes major reviews on baseflow, transmission losses, baseflow recession analysis, and broader aspects of low flows. Although these are mature topics in hydrology, they continue to attract strong interest, with hundreds of papers published in leading journals over the past 20 years. Our comprehensive review of the relevant literature focusses in detail on the use of linear and nonlinear models of recession discharge, and on transmission loss. From this review we identify three approaches to understanding recession, namely (a) theoretical approaches based on the Boussinesq equation, (b) applications of recession slope analysis, and (c) estimates of transmission loss by input–output water balance. We review the application of these techniques to ephemeral and humid areas and note the wide adoption of linear models despite most researchers accepting that the processes are nonlinear. Few papers address the characteristics of groundwater flow to ephemeral streams from unconfined aquifers. Although initially considered an ephemeral arid/semi‐arid stream feature, transmission loss occurs in streams in humid areas. Interestingly, we identify a significant omission in the literature, in that while it is common to observe nonlinear behavior in streamflow recessions, little explicit account has been given to the role of transmission loss which can be an important factor in identifying the structure of nonlinear recession models. This article is categorized under: Science of Water > Hydrological Processes
Representation of gaining, losing and perched streams in elevation and plan views (left and right panels, respectively). (Modified from Winter et al. (1998; Figures 8 and 9))
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Variation of shape of recession curves (left panel) and recession slope curves (right panel) as affected by parameter b in a nonlinear (b = 0.5, 1.5) and a linear (b = 1) aquifer model for three hypothetical data sets
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Mean transmission losses (averaged over a number of events or as monthly or annual means) expressed as percentage of inflow for 121 reaches from 42 streams plotted against upstream flow, along with individual event losses for four streams (Kuiseb River—Namibia, Tabalah Basin—Saudi Arabia, Queen Creek—Arizona, US, Walnut Gulch [from flume 11 to flume 8]—Arizona, US)
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Conceptual model of stream transmission loss showing groundwater movement and evaporation/evapotranspiration components illustrating the evapotranspiration from the riparian area directly connected to the stream (Modified from Costa et al. (2013))
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Recession slope plots, −dQ/dt versus Qave, for Severn River, Plynlimon, Wales (1991–1997) (following Kirchner, 2009). Left panel illustrates plots of all hourly data and, separately, night‐time hourly data along with binned data for the two data clouds. Right panel is for daily data and binned curve. Also shown are the three characteristic recession slopes b = 3, b = 1.5 and b = 1 (as discussed in Section 4.1)
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Relationship between infiltration rate and pressure with head difference under a clogging layer in a stream. (Reproduced with permission from Brunner et al. (2011, Figure 2)). Infiltration rate refers to the movement of water from a stream to an underlying aquifer. Pressure is the head at the base of the clogging layer, and the head difference is the water level between the stream and an adjacent borehole
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