Surface water and groundwater: unifying conceptualization and quantification of the two “water worlds”

Berkowitz, Brian; Zehe, Erwin

While both surface water and groundwater hydrological systems exhibit structural, hydraulic, and chemical heterogeneity and signatures of self-organization, modelling approaches between these two “water world” communities generally remain separate and distinct. To begin to unify these water worlds, we recognize that preferential flows, in a general sense, are a manifestation of self-organization; they hinder perfect mixing within a system, due to a more “energy-efficient” and hence faster throughput of water and matter. We develop this general notion by detailing the role of preferential flow for residence times and chemical transport, as well as for energy conversions and energy dissipation associated with flows of water and mass. Our principal focus is on the role of heterogeneity and preferential flow and transport of water and chemical species. We propose, essentially, that related conceptualizations and quantitative characterizations can be unified in terms of a theory that connects these two water worlds in a dynamic framework. We discuss key features of fluid flow and chemical transport dynamics in these two systems – surface water and groundwater – and then focus on chemical transport, merging treatment of many of these dynamics in a proposed quantitative framework. We then discuss aspects of a unified treatment of surface water and groundwater systems in terms of energy and mass flows, and close with a reflection on complementary manifestations of self-organization in spatial patterns and temporal dynamic behaviour.

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Berkowitz, Brian / Zehe, Erwin: Surface water and groundwater: unifying conceptualization and quantification of the two “water worlds”. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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