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The Effect of modeled recharge distribution on simulated groundwater availability and capture

July 1, 2015

Simulating groundwater flow in basin-fill aquifers of the semiarid southwestern United States commonly requires decisions about how to distribute aquifer recharge. Precipitation can recharge basin-fill aquifers by direct infiltration and transport through faults and fractures in the high-elevation areas, by flowing overland through high-elevation areas to infiltrate at basin-fill margins along mountain fronts, by flowing overland to infiltrate along ephemeral channels that often traverse basins in the area, or by some combination of these processes. The importance of accurately simulating recharge distributions is a current topic of discussion among hydrologists and water managers in the region, but no comparative study has been performed to analyze the effects of different recharge distributions on groundwater simulations. This study investigates the importance of the distribution of aquifer recharge in simulating regional groundwater flow in basin-fill aquifers by calibrating a groundwater-flow model to four different recharge distributions, all with the same total amount of recharge. Similarities are seen in results from steady-state models for optimized hydraulic conductivity values, fit of simulated to observed hydraulic heads, and composite scaled sensitivities of conductivity parameter zones. Transient simulations with hypothetical storage properties and pumping rates produce similar capture rates and storage change results, but differences are noted in the rate of drawdown at some well locations owing to the differences in optimized hydraulic conductivity. Depending on whether the purpose of the groundwater model is to simulate changes in groundwater levels or changes in storage and capture, the distribution of aquifer recharge may or may not be of primary importance.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title The Effect of modeled recharge distribution on simulated groundwater availability and capture
DOI 10.1111/gwat.12210
Authors Fred D. Tillman, Donald R. Pool, Stanley A. Leake
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Groundwater
Series Number
Index ID 70154764
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Arizona Water Science Center