Hydrogeological controls on the flow regime of an ephemeral temperate stream flowing across an alluvial fan

Joel Blackburn* (Corresponding Author), Jean-Christophe Comte, Gez Foster, Christopher Gibbins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Alluvial fans often support ephemeral streams whose flow regimes and sediment dynamics are strongly controlled by fan sedimentary characteristics and interactions with shallow groundwater aquifers. The hydrogeology of such fans has most often been documented for large fans located within arid climate zones. This research focuses on a small (0.075 km2) alluvial fan situated in a temperate, high rainfall climate (the Lake District, North West England). An ephemeral stream flowing across this alluvial fan plays a key role in supplying water and sediment to the River Ehen, which is the focus of a habitat restoration initiative. This study combines high spatial resolution, near surface geophysics and outcrop data with hydrological data to characterise the hydrogeological properties of the alluvial fan. A conceptual hydrogeological model was developed to understand the hydrology across the alluvial fan and how that affects water and sediment supply to the River Ehen. The alluvial fan is composed predominantly of permeable debris flow deposits and numerous palaeochannels which may provide preferential groundwater flow paths. During streamflows, partial to full stream-aquifer connectivity occurs, especially in the distal fan where groundwater discharges back into the stream. Streamflows occur when the fan apex infiltration rate/capacity threshold of approx. 60 l/s−1 is exceeded, typically following rainfall events >9–11 mm. Understanding interactions between ephemeral streams and their underlying aquifers enables better predictions of the timing and magnitude of future flows, and in-turn, their likely impacts on the water courses into which they discharge.
Original languageEnglish
Article number125994
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Early online date26 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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