Frei, S; Gilfedder, B: Technical Note: FINIFLUX an implicit Finite Element model for quantification of groundwater fluxes and hyporheic exchange in streams and rivers using Radon, , Water Resources Research, 6776–6786 (2015), doi:10.1002/2015WR017212
A quantitative understanding of groundwater-surface water interactions is vital for sustainable management of water quantity and quality. The noble gas radon-222 (Rn) is becoming increasingly used as a sensitive tracer to quantify groundwater discharge to wetlands, lakes, and rivers: a development driven by technical and methodological advances in Rn measurement. However, quantitative interpretation of these data is not trivial, and the methods used to date are based on the simplest solutions to the mass balance equation (e.g., first-order finite difference and inversion). Here we present a new implicit numerical model (FINIFLUX) based on finite elements for quantifying groundwater discharge to streams and rivers using Rn surveys at the reach scale (1–50 km). The model is coupled to a state-of-the-art parameter optimization code Parallel-PEST to iteratively solve the mass balance equation for groundwater discharge and hyporheic exchange. The major benefit of this model is that it is programed to be very simple to use, reduces nonuniqueness, and provides numerically stable estimates of groundwater fluxes and hyporheic residence times from field data. FINIFLUX was tested against an analytical solution and then implemented on two German rivers of differing magnitude, the Salzach (∼112 m3 s−1) and the Rote Main (∼4 m3 s−1). We show that using previous inversion techniques numerical instability can lead to physically impossible negative values, whereas the new model provides stable positive values for all scenarios. We hope that by making FINIFLUX freely available to the community that Rn might find wider application in quantifying groundwater discharge to streams and rivers and thus assist in a combined management of surface and groundwater systems.
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