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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Academic Staff

Publication details for Prof Simon Mathias

Mathias, Simon A., Sorensen, James P.R. & Butler, Adrian P. (2017). Soil moisture data as a constraint for groundwater recharge estimation. Journal of Hydrology 552: 258-266.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Estimating groundwater recharge rates is important for water resource management studies. Modeling approaches to forecast groundwater recharge typically require observed historic data to assist calibration. It is generally not possible to observe groundwater recharge rates directly. Therefore, in the past, much effort has been invested to record soil moisture content (SMC) data, which can be used in a water balance calculation to estimate groundwater recharge. In this context, SMC data is measured at different depths and then typically integrated with respect to depth to obtain a single set of aggregated SMC values, which are used as an estimate of the total water stored within a given soil profile. This article seeks to investigate the value of such aggregated SMC data for conditioning groundwater recharge models in this respect. A simple modeling approach is adopted, which utilizes an emulation of Richards’ equation in conjunction with a soil texture pedotransfer function. The only unknown parameters are soil texture. Monte Carlo simulation is performed for four different SMC monitoring sites. The model is used to estimate both aggregated SMC and groundwater recharge. The impact of conditioning the model to the aggregated SMC data is then explored in terms of its ability to reduce the uncertainty associated with recharge estimation. Whilst uncertainty in soil texture can lead to significant uncertainty in groundwater recharge estimation, it is found that aggregated SMC is virtually insensitive to soil texture.