Date of Award

12-2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Randall Gentry

Committee Members

John Schwartz, Chris Cox

Abstract

Groundwater-surface water interactions can substantially influence the quality of surficial water bodies and are thus important when investigating ecological health of and climate change impacts on an area. However, data collection can be hindered when the location is remote and/or legally protected. This paper presents a methodology to implement minimallyinvasive field techniques at a remote and protected location that allows preliminary identification of the relationship between groundwater and surface water. Great Smoky Mountains National Park was selected as the study area as it is subjected to some of the highest rates of acid deposition in the country. Ecological damage is evident in several areas, including Ramsay Prong, a typical fourth-order stream located on the Tennessee side of the park. Ramsay Prong is evaluated on the basis of discharge, water quality, geochemistry, and stable isotopes at six points along the channel. It should be noted that increasing drought conditions occurred in the basin over the course of this study, providing an opportunity to evaluate the situation of low baseflow. Results indicate that storage capacity in the headwaters is insufficient to supply typical baseflow volume during extended dry periods, whereas sufficient alluvium exists at the bottom of the catchment to capture and recharge the basin water supply. A shallow fracture network likely provides long flowpaths for water to travel toward the basin bottom. Furthermore, baseflow is supplied by interflow as well as shallow groundwater storage; the portion of baseflow comprised by interflow increases with increasing antecedent precipitation. Diffuse groundwater recharge occurs mainly in the headwaters where steep slopes dominate the topography, while focused recharge occurs in bedrock depressions within the reaches and at the end of the channel. These observations, coupled with geochemical and isotopic data, indicate that neutralization of acidic inputs is best accomplished in the lower elevations of the basin. It is recommended that future studies investigate the ecological impacts of reduced precipitation in terms of acid neutralization capabilities along Ramsay Prong.

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