Quantification of the seasonal hillslope water storage that does not drive streamflow

David N. Dralle, W. Jesse Hahm, Daniella M. Rempe, Nathaniel J. Karst, Sally E. Thompson, William E. Dietrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)


The relationship between seasonal catchment water storage and discharge is typically nonunique due to water storage that is not directly hydraulically connected to streams. Hydraulically disconnected water volumes are often ecologically and hydrologically important but cannot be explicitly estimated using current storage-discharge techniques. Here, we propose that discharge is explicitly sensitive to changes in only some fraction of seasonally dynamic storage that we call "direct storage," whereas the remaining storage ("indirect storage") varies without directly influencing discharge. We use a coupled mass balance and storage-discharge function approach to partition seasonally dynamic storage between these 2 pools in the Northern California Coast Ranges. We find that indirect storage constitutes the vast majority of dynamic catchment storage, even at the wettest times of the year. Indirect storage exhibits lower variability over the course of the wet season (and in successive winter periods) than does direct storage. Predicted indirect storage volumes and dynamics match field observations. Comparison of 2 neighbouring field sites reveals that indirect storage volumes can occur as unsaturated storage held under tension in soils and weathered bedrock and as near-surface saturated storage that remains on hillslopes (and is eventually evapotranspired). Indirect storage volumes (including moisture in the weathered bedrock) may support plant transpiration, and our method indicates that this important water source could be quantified from precipitation and stream discharge records.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1978-1992
Number of pages15
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


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