Although most recharge estimation studies apply multiple methods to identify the possible range in recharge values, many do not distinguish clearly enough between inherent uncertainty of the methods and other factors affecting the results. We investigated the additional value that can be gained from multi-method recharge studies through insights into hydrogeological understanding, in addition to characterizing uncertainty. Nine separate groundwater recharge estimation methods, with a total of 17 variations, were applied at a shallow aquifer in northwest Ethiopia in the context of the potential for shallow groundwater resource development. These gave a wide range of recharge values from 45 to 814 mm/a. Critical assessment indicated that the results depended on what the recharge represents (actual, potential, minimum recharge or change in aquifer storage), and spatial and temporal scales, as well as uncertainties from application of each method. Important insights into the hydrogeological system were gained from this detailed analysis, which also confirmed that the range of values for actual recharge was reduced to around 280-430 mm/a. This study demonstrates that even when assumptions behind methods are violated, as they often are to some degree especially when data are limited, valuable insights into the hydrogeological system can be gained from application of multiple methods.
© 2018 The Authors. Groundwater published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of National Ground Water Association.