Submarine discharge of nutrient-enriched fresh groundwater at Stinson Beach, California is enhanced during neap tides
Limnol. Oceanogr., 53(4), 2008, 1434-1445 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2008.53.4.1434
ABSTRACT: The influence of fortnightly spring-neap tidal variability on submarine discharge of fresh and saline groundwater was examined at Stinson Beach, California. Stinson Beach is a residential community that utilizes on-site systems for wastewater disposal. Fresh, shallow groundwater at the site contains high concentrations of nutrients (dissolved inorganic nitrogen [DIN], soluble reactive phosphate [SRP], and silicate) and human fecal bacteria. A groundwater-derived freshening and nutrification of the surf zone during neap tides was observed, followed by a 4-d increase in chlorophyll a concentrations. Analytical models and a freshwater budget in the surf zone were used to estimate the saline and fresh discharge of submarine groundwater. We estimate fresh groundwater discharge between 1.2 and 4.7 L min-1 m-1 shoreline during neap tides compared with 0.1 and 0.5 L min-1 m-1 during spring tides. This compares with 15.9 and 22.0 L min-1 m-1 saline groundwater discharge (forced by waves and tides) during neap and spring tides, respectively. Despite the smaller total (fresh + saline) flux of groundwater during neap compared with spring tides, the larger fresh discharge component during neap tides raises surf zone silicate, DIN, and SRP by 14%, 35%, and 27%, respectively, relative to spring tides. This observed fortnightly pulsing of fresh groundwater-derived nutrients was consistent with seaward hydraulic gradients across the fresh part of the beach aquifer, which varied due to aquifer overheight near the beach face. Darcy-Dupuit estimates of seaward fresh groundwater flow in this area agreed well with the fresh discharge results of the mass balance.