Stream water infiltration, bank storage, and storage zone changes due to stream-stage fluctuations

Xi Chen, Xunhong Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

83 Scopus citations


During a flood period, stream-stage increases induce infiltration of stream water into an aquifer; subsequent declines in stream stage cause a reverse motion of the infiltrated water. This paper presents the results of the water exchange rate between a stream and aquifer, the storage volume of the infiltrated stream water in the surrounding aquifer (bank storage), and the storage zone. The storage zone is the part of aquifer where groundwater is replaced by stream water during the flood. MODFLOW was used to simulate stream-aquifer interactions and to quantify rates of stream infiltration and return flow. MODPATH was used to trace the pathlines of the infiltrated stream water and to determine the size of the storage zone. Simulations were focused on the analyses of the effects of the stream-stage fluctuation, aquifer properties, the hydraulic conductivity of streambed sediments, regional hydraulic gradients, and recharge and evapotranspiration (ET) rates on stream-aquifer interactions. Generally, for a given stream-aquifer system, larger flow rates result from larger stream-stage fluctuations; larger storage volumes and storage zones are produced by larger and longer-lasting fluctuations. For a given stream-stage hydrograph, a lower-permeable streambed, an aquitard, or an anisotropic aquifer of low vertical hydraulic conductivity can significantly reduce the rate of infiltration and limit the size of the storage zone. The bank storage solely caused by the stage fluctuation differs slightly between gaining and losing streams. Short-term rainfall recharge and ET loss in the shallow groundwater slightly influence on the flow rate, but their effects on bank storage in a larger area for a longer period can be considerable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-264
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Sep 10 2003



  • Bank storage
  • Flood stage
  • Storage zone
  • Stream-aquifer interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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