Field investigation of the groundwater contribution to baseflow in an urban stream from a Quaternary aquifer with a leaky base

Trisha L. Moore, John L. Nieber, John S. Gulliver, Joseph A. Magner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Groundwater contributions to baseflow in Minnehaha Creek, a creek located in a highly developed watershed in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, from the watershed's Quaternary aquifer were quantified as part of an effort to manage low flow conditions in the creek. Considerable uncertainty exists with any single method used to quantify groundwater contributions to baseflow; therefore, a “weight of evidence” approach in which methods spanning multiple spatial scales was utilized. Analyses conducted at the watershed-scale (streamflow separation and stable isotope analyses) were corroborated with site-scale measurements (piezometer, seepage meter, and streambed temperature profiles) over a multi-year period to understand processes and conditions controlling connectivity between the stream, its shallow aquifer system and other flow sources. In the case of Minnehaha Creek, groundwater discharge was found to range from 6.2 to 23 mm year−1, which represented only 5 to 11% of annual streamflow during the study period. From the weight of evidence, it is conjectured that regional-scale hydrogeological conditions control groundwater discharge in Minnehaha Creek. Implications of these results with regard to possible augmentation of baseflow by increasing groundwater recharge with infiltration of stormwater are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5512-5527
Number of pages16
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number26
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Minnehaha Creek Watershed Association; Mississippi Watershed Management Organization; J.L. Nieber’s effort on this project was partially supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch/Multistate projects 12‐059 and 12‐109. Funding information

Funding Information:
The authors thank Ryan Birkemeier, Richie Breidenbach, Tom Detrich, Michael Kramer, Ugonna Ojiaki, Jess DeGennero and Lauren Sampedro for their assistance with field data collection and/or analysis. The authors are also grateful for staff at the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District who provided hydrologic and spatial datasets: Yvette Christianson, Tiffany Forner, James Wisker and Michael Hayman. This work was funded by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.


  • baseflow
  • groundwater recharge
  • seepage meter
  • stable isotope analysis
  • temperature profile velocity estimation
  • urban stream

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