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Identification and mapping of riverbed sediment facies in the Columbia River through integration of field observations and numerical simulations

Hou, Zhangshuan, Scheibe, Timothy D., Murray, Christopher J., Perkins, William A., Arntzen, Evan V., Ren, Huiying, Mackley, Robert D., Richmond, Marshall C.
Hydrological processes 2019 v.33 no.8 pp. 1245-1259
alluvium, aquifers, biogeochemistry, groundwater, hydrodynamics, mathematical models, rivers, stream channels, surface water, texture, Columbia River
In the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, a thin layer of recent alluvium overlies the sedimentary formations that comprise the unconfined groundwater aquifer. Experimental and modelling studies have demonstrated that this alluvial layer exerts significant control on the exchange of groundwater and surface water (hydrologic exchange flux), and is associated with elevated levels of biogeochemical activity. This layer is also observed to be strongly heterogeneous, and quantifying the spatial distribution of properties over the range of scales of interest is challenging. Facies are elements of a sediment classification scheme that groups complex geologic materials into a set of discrete classes according to distinguishing features. Facies classifications have been used as a framework for assigning heterogeneous material properties to grid cells of numerical models of flow and reactive transport in subsurface media. The usefulness of such an approach hinges on being able to relate facies to quantitative properties needed for flow and reactive transport modelling, and on being able to map facies over the domain of interest using readily available information. Although aquifer facies have been used in various modelling contexts, application of this concept to riverbed sediments is relatively new. Here, we describe an approach for categorizing and mapping recent alluvial (riverbed) sediments based on the integration of diverse observations with numerical simulations of river hydrodynamics. The facies have distinct distributions of sediment texture that correspond to variations in hydraulic properties, and therefore provide a useful framework for assigning heterogeneous properties in numerical simulations of hydrologic exchange flows and biogeochemical processes.