Modeling surface and ground water mixing in the hyporheic zone using MODFLOW and MT3D

Laura K. Lautz, Donald I. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


We used a three-dimensional MODFLOW model, paired with MT3D, to simulate hyporheic zones around debris dams and meanders along a semi-arid stream. MT3D simulates both advective transport and sink/source mixing of solutes, in contrast to particle tracking (e.g. MODPATH), which only considers advection. We delineated the hydrochemically active hyporheic zone based on a new definition, specifically as near-stream subsurface zones receiving a minimum of 10% surface water within a 10-day travel time. Modeling results indicate that movement of surface water into the hyporheic zone is predominantly an advective process. We show that debris dams are a key driver of surface water into the subsurface along the experimental reach, causing the largest flux rates of water across the streambed and creating hyporheic zones with up to twice the cross-sectional area of other hyporheic zones. Hyporheic exchange was also found in highly sinuous segments of the experimental reach, but flux rates are lower and the cross-sectional areas of these zones are generally smaller. Our modeling approach simulated surface and ground water mixing in the hyporheic zone, and thus provides numerical approximations that are more comparable to field-based observations of surface-groundwater exchange than standard particle-tracking simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1618-1633
Number of pages16
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Debris dam
  • Groundwater flow model
  • Hyporheic zone
  • MT3D

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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