Hydraulic characteristics of a small Coastal Plain stream of the southeastern United States: effects of hydrology and season

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Various physical and biological properties affect solute transport patterns in streams. We measured hydraulic characteristics of Payne Creek, a low-gradient upper Coastal Plain stream, using tracer experiments and parameter estimation with OTIS-P (one-dimensional transport with inflow and storage with parameter optimization). The primary objective of this study was to estimate the effects of varying discharge, season, and litter accumulation on hydraulic parameters. Channel area A ranged from 0.081 to 0.371 m2 and transient storage area As ranged from 0.027 to 0.111 m2. Dispersion D ranged from 1.5 to 11.1 m2 min-1 and exchange coefficient α ranged from 0.009 to 0.038 min-1. Channel area and dispersion were positively correlated to discharge Q, whereas storage area and exchange coefficient were not. Relative storage size As/A ranged from 0.17 to 0.59, and was higher during fall than other seasons under a similar Q. The fraction of median travel time due to transient storage F™° ranged from 8.8 to 34.5% and was significantly correlated with Q through a negative power function. Both metrics indicated that transient storage was a significant component affecting solute transport in Payne Creek, especially during the fall. Comparison between the measured channel area Ac and A suggested that surface storage was dominant in Payne Creek. During fall, accumulation of leaf litter resulted in larger A and As and lower velocity and D than during other seasons with similar discharge. Seasonal changes in discharge and organic matter accumulation, and dynamic channel morphology affected the magnitude of transient storage and overall hydraulic characteristics of Payne Creek.

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