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Identification of runoff generation processes using hydrometric and tracer methods in a meso-scale catchment in Rwanda

Author(s): O. Munyaneza | J. Wenninger | S. Uhlenbrook

Journal: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions
ISSN 1812-2108

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 671;
Date: 2012;
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Understanding of dominant runoff generation processes in the meso-scale Migina catchment (257.4 km2) in Southern Rwanda was improved using analysis of hydrometric data and tracer methods. The paper examines the use of hydrochemical and isotope parameters for separating streamflow into different runoff components by investigating two flood events occurred during the rainy season "Itumba" (March–May) over the period of 2 yr at two gauging stations. Dissolved silica (SiO2), electrical conductivity (EC), deuterium (2H), oxygen-18 (18O), major anions (Cl− and SO42−) and major cations (Na+, K+, Mg2+ and Ca2+) were analyzed during the events. 2H, 18O, Cl− and SiO2 were finally selected to assess the different contributing sources using mass balance equations and end member mixing analysis for two- and three-component hydrograph separation models. The results obtained applying two-component hydrograph separations using dissolved silica and chloride as tracers are generally in line with the results of three-component separations using dissolved silica and deuterium. Subsurface runoff is dominating the total discharge during flood events, More than 80% of the discharge was generated by subsurface runoff for both events. This is supported by observations of shallow groundwater responses in the catchment (depth 0.2–2 m), which show fast infiltration of rainfall water during events. Consequently, shallow groundwater and contributes to subsurface stormflow and baseflow generation. This dominance of subsurface contributions is also in line with the observed low runoff coefficient values (16.7–44.5%) for both events. Groundwater recharge during the wet seasons leads to a perennial river system, and wet season recharge is isotopically characterising all discharge components.
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