Temporal and spatial variations in river specific conductivity: Implications for understanding sources of river water and hydrograph separations

Ian Cartwright, Matthew P. Miller

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Specific conductivity (SC) is commonly used to estimate the proportion of baseflow (i.e., waters from within catchments such as groundwater, interflow, or bank return flows) contributing to rivers. Reach-scale SC comparisons are also useful for identifying where multiple water stores contribute to baseflow. Daily SC values of adjacent gauges in Australian (the Barwon, Glenelg, and Campaspe Rivers) and North American (the Upper Colorado River) catchments are commonly not well correlated (R2 = 0.32 to 0.82). Smoothed inter-gauge SC values averaged over 7 to 45 days are better correlated and define a series of hysteresis loops. The variable SC patterns between adjacent gauges probably reflect varying proportions of groundwater, bank return waters, interflow, and soil water contributing to baseflow. In some rivers using SC values to compare baseflow along river reaches on sub-annual timescales may be not be feasible.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125895
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Bank return flows
  • Baseflow
  • Groundwater
  • Rivers
  • Specific conductivity

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