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Estimating Surface Runoff And Groundwater Recharge In An Urban Catchment Using A Water Balance Approach

Robin K. Weatherl, Maria J. Henao Salgado, Maximilian Ramgraber, Christian Moeck, Mario Schirmer

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AbstractLand-use changes often have significant impact on the water cycle, including changing groundwater/surface-water interactions, modifying groundwater recharge zones, and increasing risk of contamination. Surface runoff in particular is significantly impacted by land cover. As surface runoff can act as a carrier for contaminants found at the surface, it is important to characterize runoff dynamics in anthropogenic environments. In this study, the relationship between surface runoff and groundwater recharge in urban areas is explored using a top-down water balance approach. Two empirical models were used to estimate runoff: (1) an updated, advanced method based on curve number, followed by (2) bivariate hydrograph separation. Modifications were added to each method in an attempt to better capture continuous soil-moisture processes and explicitly account for runoff from impervious surfaces. Differences between the resulting runoff estimates shed light on the complexity of the rainfall–runoff relationship, and highlight the importance of understanding soil-moisture dynamics and their control on hydro(geo)logical responses. These results were then used as input in a water balance to calculate groundwater recharge. Two approaches were used to assess the accuracy of these groundwater balance estimates: (1) comparison to calculations of groundwater recharge using the calibrated conceptual HBV Light model, and (2) comparison to groundwater recharge estimates from physically similar catchments in Switzerland that are found in the literature. In all cases, recharge is estimated at approximately 40–45% of annual precipitation. These conditions were found to closely echo those results from Swiss catchments of similar characteristics.