Wetlands provide many benefits, including flood attenuation, groundwater recharge, water-quality improvement, and habitat for wildlife. As their structure and functions are sensitive to changes in hydrology, characterizing the water budgets of wetlands is crucial to effective management and conservation. The groundwater component of a budget, which often controls resiliency and water quality, is difficult to estimate and can be costly, time-consuming, and invasive. This study used a GIS approach using a digital elevation model (DEM) and the elevations of lakes, wetlands, streams, and hydric soils to produce a water-table surface raster for a portion of the Itasca Moraine, Minnesota, U.S. The water-table surface was used to delineate groundwatersheds and groundwater flow paths for lakes and wetlands, and map recharge and discharge rates across the landscape. Specific conductance and pH, which depend on the hydrological processes that dominate a wetlands water budget, were measured in the field to verify this modeling technique. While the pH of surface waters varied in the study area, specific conductance increased from 16.7 to 357.5 μS/cm downgradient along groundwater flow paths, suggesting increased groundwater interaction. Our results indicate that basic GIS tools and often freely available public-domain elevation datasets can be used to map and characterize the interaction of groundwater in the water budgets of lakes and wetlands, as exemplified by the Itasca Moraine region. Combining this with grid cell-by-cell water balance provides a means to estimate recharge and discharge, thereby affording a way to quantify groundwater contribution to and from lakes and wetlands. Applied elsewhere, this cost-efficient technique can be used to assess the vulnerability of lakes and wetlands to changes in land use, groundwater development, and climate change.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited