Seasonal and Flood-Induced Variations in Groundwater–Surface Water Exchange in a Northern Coldwater Fishery

Jenny L. Jasperson, Karen B. Gran, Joseph A. Magner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Groundwater upwelling is important to coldwater fisheries survival. This study used stable isotopes to identify upwelling zones within a watershed, then combined isotope analyses with reach-scale monitoring to measure surface water–groundwater exchange over time. Research focused on Amity Creek, Minnesota, a basin that exemplifies conditions limiting coldwater species survival along Lake Superior's North Shore where shallow bedrock limits groundwater capacity, lowering baseflows and increasing temperatures. Groundwater-fed reaches were identified through synoptic isotope sampling, with results highlighting the importance of isolated shallow surficial aquifers (glacially derived sands and gravels) for providing cold baseflow waters. In an alluvial reach, monitoring well results show groundwater was stored in two reservoirs: one that reacts quickly to changes in stream levels, and one that remained isotopically isolated under most flow conditions, but which helps sustain summer baseflows for weeks to months. A 500-year flood demonstrated the capacity of high-flow events to alter surface water–groundwater connectivity. The previously isolated reservoir was exchanged or mixed during the flood pulse, while incision lowered the water table for years. The results here provide insight for streams that lack substantial groundwater inputs yet maintain coldwater species at risk in a warming climate and an approach for managers seeking to protect cold baseflow sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1109-1126
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by Minnesota’s Clean Water Land and Legacy amendment funds to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The authors greatly appreciate the support and assistance of Pat Carey, Andrew Streitz, and Jeff Jasperson at the MPCA. Comments from two anonymous reviewers and the Associate Editor greatly strengthened the paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Water Resources Association


  • fish
  • flooding
  • isotopes
  • streamflow
  • surface water/groundwater interactions


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