Graduate Theses & Dissertations

significance of topographically-focused groundwater recharge during winter and spring on the Oak Ridges Moraine, southern Ontario
The Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM) is a key hydrogeologic feature in southern Ontario. Previous work has emphasized the importance of depression-focused recharge (DFR) for the timing and location of groundwater recharge to the ORM’s aquifers. However, the significance of DFR has not been empirically demonstrated and the relative control of land cover, topography, and surficial geology on DFR is unclear. The potential for DFR was examined for topographic depressions under forested and open, agricultural land covers with similar soils and surficial geology. Recharge (R) was estimated at the crest and base of each depression during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 winter-spring periods (~December – May) using both a 1-dimensional water balance approach and a surface-applied Br- tracer. At each depression, air temperatures, precipitation, snow depth and water equivalent, soil water contents, soil freezing, and depression surface-water levels were monitored and soil properties (texture, bulk density, porosity, and hydraulic conductivity) were measured. Both forested and agricultural land covers experienced soil freezing; however, concrete frost did not develop in the more porous and conductive forest soils. Concrete frost in agricultural depressions resulted in overland flow, episodic ponding and drainage of rain-on-snow and snowmelt inputs. Recharge was an order-of-magnitude greater at the base of open depressions. Observations of ponding (as evidence of DFR) were made at an additional 14 depressions with varying land cover, geometry, and soil type during the 2014 snowmelt period and measurements of pond depth, pond volume, land cover (i.e., percentage of agricultural vs. forested cover), depression geometry (i.e., contributing area, average slope, relief ratio) and soil texture were made. Ponding was restricted to depressions under mostly agricultural cover and a positive, non-linear relationship between pond volume and average slope was shown for sites with similar land cover and soil texture, but neither pond depth nor volume were related to any other depression characteristics. Results suggest that DFR is a significant hydrologic process during winter and spring under agricultural land cover on the ORM. Topographic depressions under agricultural land cover on the ORM crest may serve as critical recharge “hot spots” during winter and spring, and the ability of the unsaturated zone beneath these depressions to modify the chemistry of recharging water deserves further attention. Author Keywords: Concrete frost, Depression-focused groundwater recharge, Oak Ridges Moraine, Ponding, Topographic depressions, Water balance

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