Ground water recharge is often estimated through the calibration of ground water flow models. We examine the nature of calibration errors by considering some simple mathematical and numerical calculations. From these calculations, we conclude that calibrating a steady-state ground water flow model to water level extremes yields estimates of recharge that have the same value as the time-varying recharge at the time the water levels are measured. These recharge values, however, are a subdued version of the actual transient recharge signal. In addition, calibrating a steady-state ground water flow model to data collected during periods of rising water levels will produce recharge values that underestimate the actual transient recharge. Similarly, calibrating during periods of falling water levels will overestimate the actual transient recharge. We also demonstrate that average water levels can be used to estimate the actual average recharge rate provided that water level data have been collected for a sufficient amount of time.