Stream Restoration and Hyporheic Exchange

Project Duration: 1-Oct-2002 - ongoing

Michael Gooseff (Penn State University; now at Colorado State University)
Erich Hester (Virginia Tech)
Jack Schmidt (Utah State University)

Overview: A national commitment to the restoration of aquatic ecosystems has been in place for nearly two decades, and as a result, the number of stream channel restoration projects have burgeoned. The most ambitious goal of these efforts is restoration of functioning riverine ecosystems. The methods used in channel and floodplain design typically depend on the disciplines of fluvial geomorphology and civil engineering. Thus, the initial project rationale and basis for the public’s perception of project success typically depend on ecological considerations yet the techniques of restoration design typically involve physical science and engineering.

Despite the fundamental role of engineering and geomorphology in designing dynamic channels, stream restoration as a practice is becoming more holistic, with the recognition that to restore healthy stream and near-stream ecosystems and to restore the ecological functioning of stream and near-stream environments, multiple objectives must be met. To that end, stream restoration activities now often include a much more explicit involvement with identifying ecological considerations of aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Recent advances in stream restoration include attempts to design and build stream channels with sufficient geomorphic complexity and variability such that diverse aquatic habitat is available for a healthy, functioning aquatic ecosystem, as measured by macroinvertebrate and fish populations.

One very important, and thus far overlooked element of stream restoration is groundwater surface water interactions, namely hyporheic exchange. Hyporheic exchange is important to stream ecosystem function because of biogeochemical processes that occur along hyporheic flowpaths (i.e. denitrification, carbon mineralization, etc.), and can dictate patterns in stream flora and fauna due to focused exchanges of surface water and groundwater.

In this project, we will investigate hyporehic zone hydrology in pristine and restored streams to assess the potential for hyporheic exchange in current restoration design. We will characterize channel bed topography, stream surface topography, sediment characteristics in channel units of pristine and restored streams, and we will utilize stream tracer techniques to quantify hyporheic exchange at the stream reach scale.

channelized provo river
Channelized reach of the Provo River, prior to restoration.
provo river restored
Restored reach of the Provo River.

Location: We will primarily be working on the restored and non-restored sections of the Provo River in Heber Valley, UT. The Provo River was channelized for flood control, and as part of the Central Utah Project, is now being restored. We are also working in other locations throughout the western US to characterize hyporheic exchange in other pristine and impacted reaches. During the summer of 2003, we worked in three streams around Grand Teton National Park, one pristine stream, one urban stream, one agricultural stream.

Conference Presentations:
  1. Gooseff, MN, RO Hall, and JL Tank. 2003. A comparison of fluvial geomorphic structure, transient storage residence time distributions, and nitrate cycling along a gradient of impacted streams in and around Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

  2. Gooseff, MN, RO Hall Jr., JL Tank. 2004. Stream transient storage as a function of land use in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. [Poster H21B-1001] American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

  3. Goetz, RR, MN Gooseff, and JC Schmidt. 2006. Comparison of transient storage characteristics in restored and unrestored reaches of the Provo River, Heber Valley, Utah. Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium - Geomorphology & Ecosystems, University at Buffalo – Buffalo, New York (paper #20).

  4. Goetz, RR, MN Gooseff, and JC Schmidt. 2005. Comparison of transient storage characteristics in restored and unrestored reaches of the Provo River, Heber Valley, Utah. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City, UT.

  5. Hester, ET, and MN Gooseff. 2008.Hyporheic restoration in streams and rivers. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco (H43B).


  1. Gooseff, MN, RO Hall Jr., and JL Tank. 2007. Relating transient storage to channel complexity in streams of varying land use in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Water Resources Research, 43, W01417, doi:10.1029/2005WR004626.

  2. Hester, ET , and MN Gooseff. 2010. Moving beyond the banks: Hyporheic restoration is fundamental to restoring ecological services and functions of streams. Environmental Science & Technology, 44(5): 1521-1525.

  3. Hester, E, and MN Gooseff. 2011. Hyporheic restoration in streams and rivers, in Stream Restoration in Dynamic Fluvial Systems: Scientific Approaches, Analyses, and Tools, edited by A Simon, S Bennett, and J Castro. AGU Geophysical Monograph, v.194, American Geophysical Union, Washington DC

Graduate Students:
Related Links:

This project is currently funded through the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station and a Utah State University Community/University Research Initaitive (CURI) Grant to M. Gooseff (2004-05)

This page was created on 02-Dec-2003.
This page was last updated on 15-Jul-2013.