Woods, S., Macdonald, L., & Westbrook, C. (2006). Hydrologic interactions between an alluvial fan and a slope wetland in the central Rocky Mountains, USA. Wetlands.
Woods, S., L. Macdonald, and C. Westbrook. “Hydrologic Interactions between an Alluvial Fan and a Slope Wetland in the Central Rocky Mountains, USA.” Wetlands (2006).
Woods, S., et al. “Hydrologic Interactions between an Alluvial Fan and a Slope Wetland in the Central Rocky Mountains, USA.” Wetlands, 2006.
Slope wetlands generally occur at breaks in slope where discharging ground water maintains moist soil conditions. They often are found on the perimeter of highly permeable alluvial fans, but there have been no detailed hydrologic studies of these particular wetlands. We combined stream and spring flow measurements with five years of water-level and piezometric data to understand the hydrology of a 1.6 ha slope wetland at the base of a 5.2 ha alluvial fan in the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Step changes in streamflow inputs resulting from an upstream water diversion helped confirm the linkages inferred from the hydrometric data. Nearly 30% of the streamflow along a 180-m reach on the alluvial fan was lost to seepage. Discharge from two springs at the toe of the alluvial fan was eliminated and the piezometric head in the toe of the fan decreased by more than 80 cm within 1–2 days after the stream was diverted, indicating that stream seepage is the primary source of ground-water recharge for the alluvial fan. Streamflow and ground water discharging at the base of the alluvial fan were the primary wetland inflows, with summer precipitation playing a relatively minor role. Consequently, wetland water levels declined by up to 75 cm after the diversion began operating. The largest declines were in the lower part of the wetland, where surface sheet flow from the stream was the main water source. Continuing ground-water discharge into the upper part of the wetland limited the water level declines to less than 40 cm. The importance of streamflow as a water source distinguishes slope wetlands adjacent to alluvial fans from those found in other settings and makes them particularly vulnerable to upstream water diversions.