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Summary of groundwater-recharge estimates for Pennsylvania

January 1, 2010

Groundwater recharge is water that infiltrates through the subsurface to the zone of saturation beneath the water table. Because recharge is a difficult parameter to quantify, it is typically estimated from measurements of other parameters like streamflow and precipitation. This report provides a general overview of processes affecting recharge in Pennsylvania and presents estimates of recharge rates from studies at various scales.

The most common method for estimating recharge in Pennsylvania has been to estimate base flow from measurements of streamflow and assume that base flow (expressed in inches over the basin) approximates recharge. Statewide estimates of mean annual groundwater recharge were developed by relating base flow to basin characteristics of HUC10 watersheds (a fifth-level classification that uses 10 digits to define unique hydrologic units) using a regression equation. The regression analysis indicated that mean annual precipitation, average daily maximum temperature, percent of sand in soil, percent of carbonate rock in the watershed, and average stream-channel slope were significant factors in the explaining the variability of groundwater recharge across the Commonwealth.

Several maps are included in this report to illustrate the principal factors affecting recharge and provide additional information about the spatial distribution of recharge in Pennsylvania. The maps portray the patterns of precipitation, temperature, prevailing winds across Pennsylvania’s varied physiography; illustrate the error associated with recharge estimates; and show the spatial variability of recharge as a percent of precipitation. National, statewide, regional, and local values of recharge, based on numerous studies, are compiled to allow comparison of estimates from various sources. Together these plates provide a synopsis of groundwater-recharge estimations and factors in Pennsylvania.

Areas that receive the most recharge are typically those that get the most rainfall, have favorable surface conditions for infiltration, and are less susceptible to the influences of high temperatures, and thus, evapotranspiration. Areas that have less recharge in Pennsylvania are typically those with less precipitation, less permeable soils, and higher temperatures that are conducive to greater rates of evapotranspiration.

Publication Year 2010
Title Summary of groundwater-recharge estimates for Pennsylvania
Authors Stuart O. Reese, Dennis W. Risser
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Series Title Water Resource Report
Series Number 70
Index ID 70155134
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pennsylvania Water Science Center