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Geography and Environmental Studies


Two- and three-component hydrograph separations based on 18O and dissolved silica are used to investigate the contributions of glacial till water to the storm runoff of a headwater stream on the Canadian Shield. Two-component isotopic hydrograph separations based on 18O indicate that the volume and flux of event water could be accounted for by direct precipitation onto saturated areas. Three-component hydrograph separations distinguish between event water, preevent soil water, and preevent till water. These results show that groundwater flow through coarse-textured glacial tills can make a significant contribution to stream discharge during runoff events (29 and 62% in this study) despite the lower hydraulic conductivities of the tills compared to the overlying soils. The three-component hydrograph separations also demonstrate that the relative contributions of preevent soil water and preevent till water changed during one runoff event such that the average water chemistry of the preevent component varied during the event. Two-component hydrograph separations using dissolved silica indicate that seasonal changes in the till water contributions also occur and are related to groundwater levels. Measurements of vertical hydraulic gradients during runoff events indicate that the increase in flow from the tills to the soils is minimal and cannot account for the large and rapid increase in till water flow into the stream. Till water that has discharged to the soils prior to the event is probably being flushed from the soils into the stream during events.


This article was originally published in Water Resources Research, 30(4): 983-993. (c) 1994 American Geophysical Union