Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Quantification of groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration along a semi-arid wetland transect using diurnal water table fluctuations


Groundwater is a vital water resource in arid and semi-arid areas. Diurnal groundwater table fluctuations are widely used to quantify rainfall recharge and groundwater evapotranspiration (ETg). To assess groundwater resources for sustainable use, we estimated groundwater recharge and ETg using the diurnal water table fluctuations at three sites along a section with different depths to water table (DWT) within a wetland of the Mukai Lake in the Ordos Plateau, Northwest China. The water table level was monitored at an hourly resolution using a Keller DCX-22A data logger that measured both the total pressure and barometric pressure, so that the effect of barometric pressure could be removed. At this study site, a rapid water table response to rainfall was observed in two shallow wells (i.e., Obs1 and Obs2), at which diurnal water table fluctuations were also observed over the study period during rainless days, indicating that the main factors influencing water table variation are rainfall and ETg. However, at the deep-water table site (Obs3), the groundwater level only reacted to the heaviest rainfalls and showed no diurnal variations. Groundwater recharge and ETg were quantified for the entire hydrological year (June 2017–June 2018) using the water table fluctuation method and the Loheide method, respectively, with depth-dependent specific yields. The results show that the total annual groundwater recharge was approximately 207 mm, accounting for 52% of rainfall at Obs1, while groundwater recharge was approximately 250 and 21 mm at Obs2 and Obs3, accounting for 63% and 5% of rainfall, respectively. In addition, the rates of groundwater recharge were mainly determined by rainfall intensity and DWT. The daily mean ETg at Obs1 and Obs2 over the study period was 4.3 and 2.5 mm, respectively, and the main determining factors were DWT and net radiation.

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