Spatiotemporal Variability in Water Sources Controls Chemical and Physical Properties of a Semi-arid Urban River System

J. J. Follstad Shah, Y. Jameel, R. M. Smith, R. S. Gabor, P. D. Brooks, S. R. Weintraub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We conducted synoptic surveys over three seasons in one year to evaluate the variability in water sources and geochemistry of an urban river with complex water infrastructure in the state of Utah. Using stable isotopes of river water (δ18O and δ2H) within a Bayesian mixing model framework and a separate hydrologic mass balance approach, we quantified both the proportional inputs and magnitude of discharge associated with “natural” (lake, groundwater, and tributary inputs) and “engineered” (effluent and canal inflows) sources. The relative importance of these major contributors to streamflow varied both spatially and seasonally. Spatiotemporal patterns of dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, calcium, chloride, nitrate, and orthophosphate indicated seasonal shifts in dominant sources of river water played an important role in determining water quality. We show although urban rivers are clearly influenced by novel water sources created by water infrastructure, they continue to reflect the imprint of “natural” water sources, including diffuse groundwater. Resource managers thus may need to account for the quantity of both surface waters and also historically overlooked groundwater inputs to address water quality concerns in urban rivers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-607
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • discharge
  • effluent
  • groundwater
  • hydrology
  • lake
  • stable isotopes
  • tributary
  • water quality
  • water reclamation facility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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