Gabrielli, C.P., McDonnell, J.J., and Jarvis, W.T. 2012. The role of bedrock groundwater in rainfall–runoff response at hillslope and
catchment scales. Journal of Hydrology 450-451:117-133.
Bedrock groundwater dynamics in headwater catchments are poorly understood and poorly characterized. Direct hydrometric measurements have been limited due to the logistical challenges associated with drilling through hard rock in steep, remote and often roadless terrain. We used a new portable bedrock drilling system to explore bedrock groundwater dynamics aimed at quantifying bedrock groundwater contributions to hillslope flow and catchment runoff. We present results from the Maimai M8 research catchment in New Zealand and Watershed 10 (WS10) at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon, USA. Analysis of bedrock groundwater at Maimai, through a range of flow conditions, revealed that the bedrock water table remained below the soil–bedrock interface, indicating that the bedrock aquifer has minimal direct contributions to event-based hillslope runoff. However, the bedrock water table did respond significantly to storm events indicating that there is a direct connection between hillslope processes and the underlying bedrock aquifer. WS10 groundwater dynamics were dominated by fracture flow. A highly fractured and transmissive zone within the upper one meter of bedrock conducted rapid lateral subsurface stormflow and lateral discharge. The interaction of subsurface stormflow with bedrock storage directly influenced the measured hillslope response, solute transport and computed mean residence time. This research reveals bedrock groundwater to be an extremely dynamic component of the hillslope hydrological system and our comparative analysis illustrates the potential range of hydrological and geological controls on runoff generation in headwater catchments.
Keywords: Hillslope hydrology; Rainfall runoff; Bedrock groundwater; Stormflow