The hydraulic conductivity structure of gravel-dominated vadose zones within alluvial floodplains

Ronald B. Miller, Derek M. Heeren, Garey A. Fox, Todd Halihan, Daniel E. Storm, Aaron R. Mittelstet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The floodplains of many gravel-bed streams have a general stratigraphy that consists of a layer of topsoil covering gravel-dominated subsoil. Previous research has demonstrated that this stratigraphy can facilitate preferential groundwater flow through focused linear features, such as paleochannels, or gravelly regions within the vadose zone. These areas within the floodplain vadose zone may provide a route for interactions between the floodplain surface and alluvial groundwater, effectively extending the hyporheic zone across the floodplain during high stream stage. The objective of this research was to assess the structure and scale of texture heterogeneity within the vadose zone within the gravel subsoils of alluvial floodplains using resistivity data combined with hydraulic testing and sediment sampling of the vadose zone. Point-scale and broad-scale methodologies in combination can help us understand spatial heterogeneity in hydraulic conductivity without the need for a large number of invasive hydraulic tests. The evaluated sites in the Ozark region of the United States were selected due to previous investigations indicating that significant high conductivity flow zones existed in a matrix which include almost no clay content. Data indicated that resistivity corresponded with the fine content in the vadose zone and subsequently corresponds to the saturated hydraulic conductivity. Statistical analysis of resistivity data, and supported by data from the soil sampling and permeameter hydraulic testing, identified isolated high flow regions and zones that can be characterized as broad-scale high hydraulic conductivity features with potentially significant consequences for the migration of water and solutes and therefore are of biogeochemical and ecological significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-240
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - May 26 2014


  • Electrical resistivity imaging
  • Floodplain
  • Gravel
  • Hydraulic conductivity
  • Permeameter
  • Vadose zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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