Problems of environmental water quality such as transfer of pollutants and ecosystem acidification call for a new insight to the path and the contact time of water in the different subsurface reservoirs. An isotopic and chemical hydrograph separation is carried out for a flood in a small upland watershed in the Mediterranean region (Cannone, Corsica Island, France) with special attention to a comparison between the two methods and discussion of their limits. Here, old and new water are clearly distinguished by isotopic composition. The pattern of the dissolved constituents of stream water shows the contribution of ground water, often assumed to be negligible. The non-conservative behaviour of rain-water chemistry during its path to the stream channel due to enrichment by throughfall and leaching of soils, is the main obstacle to chemical separation. Chemical separation, especially through specific conductance seems generally to be hazardous, except perhaps for dissolved silica. Checking the variation of all dissolved constituents would prevent questionable approximations.
Headwater stream, forested watershed, hydrograph separation, 18O, water chemistry.
Loye-Pilot, M.D., Institut de Biogéochimie Marine, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 1, rue Maurice Auroux, 92120 Montrouge, France