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Unraveling groundwater contributions to evapotranspiration in a mountain headwaters: Using eddy covariance to constrain water and energy fluxes in the East River Catchment
  • Anna Ryken,
  • David Gochis,
  • Reed Maxwell
Anna Ryken
Colorado School of Mines
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David Gochis
National Center for Atmospheric Research
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Reed Maxwell
Princeton University
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Abstract

Despite the importance of headwater catchments for western United States’ water supply, these regions are often poorly understood, particularly with respect to quantitative understanding of evapotranspiration (ET) fluxes. Heterogeneity of land cover, physiography, and atmospheric patterns in these high-elevation regions lead to difficulty in developing spatially-distributed characterization of ET. As the largest terrestrial water flux behind precipitation, ET represents a significant fraction of the water budget for any watershed. Likewise, groundwater is the largest available freshwater store and has been shown to play a large role in the water balance, even in headwater systems. Using an eddy covariance tower in the East River Catchment, a Colorado River headwaters basin, this study estimates water and energy fluxes in high-elevation, complex systems to better constrain ET estimates and calculate overall water and energy budgets, including losses from groundwater. The eddy covariance method is used to estimate ET from years 2017 through 2019 at a saturated, riparian end-member site. Owing to complexities in near surface atmospheric structure such as stable boundary layers over snowpack and shallow terrain driven flow from surrounding landscape features, energy flux and ET estimates were limited to the warm season when energy closure residuals from the eddy-covariance system were reliably less than 30 %, a threshold commonly used in eddy covariance energy flux estimation. The resulting ET estimations are useful for constraining water budget estimates at this energy-limited site, which uses groundwater for up to 84 % of ET in the summer months. We also compared East River ET magnitudes and seasonality to two other flux towers (Niwot Ridge, CO and Valles Caldera, NM), located in the Rocky Mountains. This data is useful for constraining ET estimates in similar end-member locations across the East River Catchment. Our results show that groundwater-fed ET is a significant component of the water balance and groundwater may supply riparian ET even during low-snow years.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

01 Jan 2021Submitted to Hydrological Processes
04 Jan 2021Submission Checks Completed
04 Jan 2021Assigned to Editor
04 Jan 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
14 Feb 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
18 Feb 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Major
30 Apr 20211st Revision Received
30 Apr 2021Assigned to Editor
30 Apr 2021Submission Checks Completed
30 Apr 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned