Ecohydrologic process modeling of mountain block groundwater recharge

Ian A. Magruder, William W. Woessner, Steve W. Running

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Regional mountain block recharge (MBR) is a key component of alluvial basin aquifer systems typical of the western United States. Yet neither water scientists nor resource managers have a commonly available and reasonably invoked quantitative method to constrain MBR rates. Recent advances in landscape-scale ecohydrologic process modeling offer the possibility that meteorological data and land surface physical and vegetative conditions can be used to generate estimates of MBR. A water balance was generated for a temperate 24,600-ha mountain watershed, elevation 1565 to 3207 m, using the ecosystem process model Biome-BGC (BioGeochemical Cycles) (Running and Hunt 1993). Input data included remotely sensed landscape information and climate data generated with the Mountain Climate Simulator (MT-CLIM) (Running et al. 1987). Estimated mean annual MBR flux into the crystalline bedrock terrain is 99,000 m 3/d, or approximately 19% of annual precipitation for the 2003 water year. Controls on MBR predictions include evapotranspiration (radiation limited in wet years and moisture limited in dry years), soil properties, vegetative ecotones (significant at lower elevations), and snowmelt (dominant recharge process). The ecohydrologic model is also used to investigate how climatic and vegetative controls influence recharge dynamics within three elevation zones. The ecohydrologic model proves useful for investigating controls on recharge to mountain blocks as a function of climate and vegetation. Future efforts will need to investigate the uncertainty in the modeled water balance by incorporating an advanced understanding of mountain recharge processes, an ability to simulate those processes at varying scales, and independent approaches to calibrating MBR estimates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)774-785
Number of pages12
JournalGroundwater
Volume47
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2009

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